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

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.


Iranian wedding party fueled new COVID-19 surge, President Rouhani says

Updated 13 min 48 sec ago

Iranian wedding party fueled new COVID-19 surge, President Rouhani says

  • New cases dipped to 2,886 on Friday, bringing Iran’s total cases to more than 167,000, with over 8,000 deaths
  • Health officials have been warning of a second wave of the outbreak, but say a reason for the surge in new cases could be wider testing

DUBAI: A wedding party contributed to a new surge in coronavirus infections in Iran, President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday but insisted the country had no option but to keep its economy open despite warnings of a second wave of the epidemic.
Iran, which has been gradually relaxing its lockdown since mid-April, has reported a sharp rise of new daily infections in recent days. Thursday’s toll of 3,574 new cases was the highest since February, when the outbreak was first reported.
“At one location, we witnessed a peak in this epidemic, the source of which was a wedding that caused problems for the people, health workers and losses to the economy and the country’s health system,” Rouhani said on state TV. He did not say when or where the wedding took place.
New cases dipped to 2,886 on Friday, bringing Iran’s total cases to more than 167,000, with over 8,000 deaths.
Health officials have been warning of a second wave of the outbreak, but say a reason for the surge in new cases could be wider testing. One official said about 70% of the new cases in Tehran were among those who had traveled outside the capital in recent days.
Iran has been struggling to curb the spread of COVID-19 but authorities are concerned that measures to limit public and economic life to contain the virus could wreck an already economy already reeling under international sanctions.
“In these circumstances, we have no other choice — that is, there is no second option,” Rouhani added. “We have to work, our factories have to be active, our shops have to be open, and there has to be movement in the country as far as it is necessary.”
Iranian universities reopened on Saturday after being closed for more than three and a half months, state media reported. Nurseries will reopen in a week’s time, when Qur'an and languages classes will also resume, Rouhani said.