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.


Citizen journalist among 11 civilians killed in northwest Syria

Updated 14 min 17 sec ago
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Citizen journalist among 11 civilians killed in northwest Syria

  • Anas Al-Dyab, a photographer and videographer in his early 20s, was a member of the White Helmets

KHAN SHEIKHUN: A young citizen journalist was among 11 civilians killed in air raids on Syria’s Idlib region Sunday, rescue workers and a monitor said, as he filmed the Russia-backed regime bombardment of the battered enclave.
Anas Al-Dyab, a photographer and videographer in his early 20s, was a member of the White Helmets who also contributed to AFP.
He was killed in Russian air strikes in the town of Khan Sheikhun, rescuers and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The White Helmets, rescue workers in rebel areas named after their distinctive hard hats, said the group “mourns the fall of a hero Anas Al-Dyab, a volunteer and media activist with the Syrian Civil Defense Center in Idlib,” in a Twitter post.
An AFP journalist saw White Helmet members gather to bid farewell to their friend, whose body was laid on a thick red blanket.
The Damascus regime and its Russian ally have stepped up their deadly bombardment of the jihadist-run region of Idlib since late April, despite a September buffer zone deal to protect the region of some three million people from a massive military assault.
Khan Sheikhun, a town in the south of Idlib, has been particularly hit, forcing thousands to flee their homes there, according to the United Nations.
But Dyab “chose to remain with his fellow volunteers in Khan Sheikhun till today,” the White Helmets said.
Raed Al-Saleh, the head of the White Helmets, said Dyab was killed while “trying to show the world what’s going on in Syria.”
“It’s a great loss,” he said.
Dyab, who was single, leaves behind his parents and three brothers, one of whom is held by the Damascus regime, Saleh said.
The Observatory said Dyab was hiding in the cellar of a three-story building with two members of the Jaish Al-Ezza rebel group when the strike happened.
Also on Sunday, regime air strikes killed 10 other civilians including three children in other parts of the bastion, said the Britain-based monitor, which relies on sources inside Syria for its information.
Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham in January took full administrative control of the Idlib region, although other jihadists and rebels are also present.
The Idlib region is supposed to be protected by a September 2018 deal between Russia and rebel backer Turkey, but a buffer zone planned under that accord was never fully implemented.
The White Helmets, who are backed by the West, were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016.
But Moscow and Damascus accuse the group of backing rebels and jihadists.
Syria’s war has killed a total of more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.