UN force says third tunnel crossed Lebanon-Israel border

The Israeli army said the tunnel from the Lebanese town of Ramyeh — just 800 meters from the border — reached a few dozen meters into Israel. (AP)
Updated 25 April 2019
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UN force says third tunnel crossed Lebanon-Israel border

  • UNIFIL’s independent assessment confirms that this tunnel crosses the blue line, UN says

BEIRUT: A UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon on Thursday said a tunnel discovered earlier this year by Israel had crossed the Lebanese-Israeli border, in the third such breach of a cease-fire resolution.

Israel in January accused Lebanese movement Hezbollah of having dug what it described as the deepest, “longest and most detailed” tunnel it had discovered.

The Israeli army said the tunnel from the Lebanese town of Ramyeh — just 800 meters from the border — reached a few dozen meters into Israel, and descended to 55 meters underground.

UN Interim Force In Lebanon (UNIFIL) on Thursday said the tunnel was the third to have crossed the “blue line,” a demarcation line drawn by the UN to mark Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000.

“UNIFIL’s independent assessment confirms that this tunnel crosses the blue line in violation of resolution 1701,” which ended the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, it said.

“UNIFIL has informed the Lebanese authorities about the violation and has requested urgent follow-up actions,” the UN force said in a statement.

Lebanon and Israel are still technically at war. Israel is currently building a wall along the 130 km frontier to block Hezbollah attempts to infiltrate.

Since early December, Israel has said it discovered six tunnels, destroying them either with explosives or by filling them with a cement-like material.

Five have been confirmed to exist by UNIFIL.

“Of these, three tunnels have been found to be crossing the blue line,” the peacekeeping force said.

Israel alleges Hezbollah had planned to use the tunnels to kidnap or kill its civilians or soldiers, and to seize Israeli territory in the event of any hostilities.

On Jan. 26, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said it had taken Israel “years” to discover some of the tunnels, but did not specify who had constructed them.

Hezbollah is the only side not to have disarmed after Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war.

In recent years, Israel has repeatedly carried out airstrikes against what it says are Hezbollah weapons convoys in war-torn Syria next door, where the group is backing regime forces.

The US has designated Hezbollah a “terrorist” group since 1997, while the EU blacklisted its military arm in 2013.

But it also functions as a political party, with posts in the current Cabinet.

The US on Monday offered a $10 million reward for information that would disrupt the group’s finances.


Lebanese budget protesters clash with security in Beirut

Updated 20 May 2019
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Lebanese budget protesters clash with security in Beirut

  • Over one hundred protesters gathered Monday outside the Government House in downtown Beirut
  • Lebanon faces a looming fiscal crisis as the economy struggles with soaring debt

BEIRUT: Security forces opened water cannons on Lebanese anti-austerity protesters in the country’s capital on Monday, as the government continued to hold marathon meetings to discuss severe budget cuts.
Lebanon faces a looming fiscal crisis as the economy struggles with soaring debt, rising unemployment and slow growth. The government’s tightened budget and key reforms aim to unlock billions of dollars in pledged foreign assistance. But planned cuts have unleashed a wave of public discontent, amid leaks that austerity could target public wages, services and social benefits.

A retired Lebanese soldier chants slogans while holding an army flag, during a protest in Beirut, Lebanon, Monday. (AP)

Over one hundred protesters gathered Monday outside the Government House in downtown Beirut shouting “Thieves, thieves!” as the Cabinet met for its 16th session and struggles to reach agreement.
Protesters pushed back against police lines and set fire to tires outside the building. At least two policemen and one civilian were wounded in the scuffles.
Among those demonstrating Monday were public and private school teachers and retired officers.
The government, headed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, has sought to calm nerves while also describing the upcoming budget as the most austere in Lebanon’s history.
Hariri said he hopes the government will be able to send the budget to parliament later this week.
Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said the cabinet made “important progress” in discussions Sunday.