UN peacekeepers confirm Israeli report of tunnel at Lebanon border

A picture taken from the southern Lebanese village of Kfar Kila shows Israeli soldiers gathering near an Israeli excavation site for reported cross-border Hezbollah-dug tunnels. (AFP)
Updated 06 December 2018
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UN peacekeepers confirm Israeli report of tunnel at Lebanon border

  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took Israel-based diplomats to the border with Lebanon
  • Israel discovered Hezbollah tunnels infiltrating its territory from Lebanon and launched an operation to destroy them

JERUSALEM: UN peacekeepers in Lebanon have confirmed the existence of a tunnel discovered by the Israeli military close to the blue line separating the two countries, it said in a statement on Thursday.
The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is "engaged with the parties to pursue urgent follow-up action" and "will communicate its preliminary findings to the appropriate authorities in Lebanon", it added.

Earlier on Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took Israel-based diplomats to the border with Lebanon, showing them the site of a Hezbollah tunnel and calling for sanctions against the Shiite militant group.
“I told the ambassadors that they should condemn this aggression by Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, unequivocally, and of course also to intensify the sanctions against these elements,” he said in a Hebrew-language statement.
Israel announced on Tuesday that it had discovered Hezbollah tunnels infiltrating its territory from Lebanon and launched an operation to destroy them.
On Wednesday, Netanyahu told UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres that he “expects the UN to strongly condemn the violation of Israel’s sovereignty,” according to his office’s Twitter account.
Netanyahu said Thursday that Hezbollah, like Hamas in the Gaza Strip, was acting on behalf of its patron Iran.
“Anyone who attacks us will have bloodshed on their own heads,” he said. “Hezbollah knows that and Hamas knows it too.”
The military said it had located one such tunnel dug from a home in the Kfar Kila area of south Lebanon that crossed into Israeli territory and was working to “neutralize” it.


Work underway to clear land mines from Jesus baptism site

Updated 10 min 21 sec ago
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Work underway to clear land mines from Jesus baptism site

  • Work at the site just north of the Dead Sea is being overseen by Israel’s Defense Ministry
  • Mines and other ordnance have been cleared from Ethiopian and Greek Orthodox monastery sites, organizers said

QASR AL-YAHUD, Palestinian Territories: Efforts to clear thousands of land mines and other ordnance around the site where many believe Jesus was baptized have reached a milestone and officials allowed a rare glimpse Sunday of abandoned churches there.

The church grounds around the site in the occupied West Bank have sat empty and decaying for around 50 years, though pilgrims have been able to visit a nearby restricted area at the traditional baptismal spot on the banks of the River Jordan.

Work at the site just north of the Dead Sea is being overseen by Israel’s Defense Ministry, de-mining charity Halo Trust and Israeli firm 4CI.

According to the ministry, the project covers around 1 square kilometer (250 acres) as well as some 3,000 mines and other explosive remnants.

It is expected to cost 20 million shekels ($5.3 million, €4.7 million).

The work began in March and would require another eight months to a year to complete, said Moshe Hilman of Israel’s Defense Ministry.

Mines and other ordnance have been cleared from Ethiopian and Greek Orthodox monastery sites as well as a Franciscan chapel, organizers said.

Other grounds belonging to Russian, Syrian, Romanian and Coptic Orthodox churches are yet to be cleared.

The plan once complete is to return the plots to the various church denominations and allow visits. At the crumbling, brick-and-concrete Ethiopian monastery on Sunday, a fading fresco of Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist could still be seen inside.

Signs hung on the walls with notifications that the location had been cleared of explosives.

A collection of pieces of mortars and other explosive remnants sat alongside a nearby roadside as a demonstration of some of what had been found.

“The Halo Trust has reached a pivotal point in our work to clear the baptism site of land mines and other remnants of war,” the charity’s CEO James Cowan said in a statement.

He added that “we have completed clearance of the Ethiopian, Greek and Franciscan churches.”

The majority of the mines were laid by Israeli forces after the country seized control of the West Bank in 1967 from Jordanian troops. Other unexploded ordnance from both Israel and Jordan has remained lodged in the ground, including around the churches, which were evacuated by Israel in the 1970s.

Israel’s control of the West Bank has never been recognized by the international community, which considers the land occupied Palestinian territory.