BEIRUT: Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col, head of mission and commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), on Wednesday urged Israeli and Lebanese parties “to exercise restraint and avoid any provocative act that would further escalate tensions and endanger the cessation of hostilities.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened Lebanon hours after Israeli forces fired dozens of fluorescent and phosphorous bombs at Lebanese border towns, causing fires but no human casualties.
Netanyahu warned Hezbollah “not to test the striking force of Israel.” He added: “Hezbollah exposes the Lebanese state to danger because of its aggression.”
Lebanon decided to submit a complaint to the UN Security Council (UNSC) regarding Israel’s attack.
It took place 48 hours before the UNSC approved the renewal of UNIFIL’s mandate, which expires on Aug. 31, for one year.
In 2017, Israel sent a complaint to the UNSC, accusing Hezbollah of “establishing observation posts along the southern Lebanese border under the guise of an environmental organization.”
The Lebanese Supreme Defense Council, headed by President Michel Aoun, met hours after the attack. The council was briefed on the details of what happened on the border.
UNIFIL spokesman Andrea Tenenti said it “detected the launch of many flare bombs from Israeli army positions along the Blue Line in front of the towns of Aitaroun, Aita Al-Shaab, Mays Al-Jabal, Hula, Kafr Kila and Kafr Shuba in southern Lebanon. UNIFIL’s radars also detected mortar and artillery shells, most of which were smoke shells, in addition to intense drone activities over these areas.”
He added that UNIFIL “immediately … reinforced its forces along the Blue Line,” the UN border demarcation between the two countries.
Tenenti said Del Col stressed the importance of “investigating all the facts and circumstances surrounding the dangerous developments that took place … along the Blue Line.” Both sides were urged “to fully cooperate with UNIFIL in determining the facts.”
Netanyahu tweeted that “Israel views with great gravity Hezbollah’s firing at our forces,” adding: “We will respond mightily to any attack on us.”
Israeli military spokesman Avichay Adraee said: “Military helicopters and another aircraft attacked targets belonging to Hezbollah … in the border area.” He added: “The Lebanese government is responsible for what is happening from its territory.”
Hours after the attack, Walid Sukkarieh, an MP with Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc and a former officer in the Lebanese Army, said: “The resistance will not slide into war, because Israel will not slide into war, nor will the resistance seek war.”
Meanwhile, Lebanon’s General Directorate of the Internal Security Forces announced “the arrest of a Syrian youth belonging to Daesh who was planning to carry out terrorist operations in Lebanon.”