Advertisement

UN warns ceasefire violations could spark war between Lebanon and Israel

WATCH: (From June 2019) U.S. launches Mideast plan for peace amid skepticism

The U.N. Security Council warned Thursday that violations of the cessation of hostilities between Israel and Lebanon in the latter country’s south “could lead to a new conflict that none of the parties or the region can afford.”

The council warning came in a French-sponsored resolution adopted unanimously that extends the mandate of the 10,500-strong U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, known as UNIFIL, until Aug. 31, 2020.

READ MORE: Iraq coalition says Israeli airstrikes a ‘declaration of war’

It was approved days after an alleged Israeli drone crashed in a Hezbollah stronghold in southern Beirut and after Lebanese army gunners fired Wednesday at Israeli reconnaissance drones flying in Lebanese airspace, heightening tensions between the two countries.

The Security Council urged all parties to “exercise maximum calm and restraint and refrain from any action or rhetoric that could jeopardize the cessation of hostilities or destabilize the region.”

Story continues below advertisement

UNIFIL was originally created to oversee the withdrawal of Israeli troops after a 1978 invasion of Lebanon. The mission was expanded after a 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah militants so peacekeepers could deploy along the Lebanon-Israel border, to help Lebanese troops extend their authority into their country’s south for the first time in decades.

WATCH: Iraq lawmaker slams Israel for air raids as funeral procession held for fighter killed

Iraq lawmaker slams Israel for air raids as funeral procession held for fighter killed
Iraq lawmaker slams Israel for air raids as funeral procession held for fighter killed

France’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Anne Gueguen, told the council after the vote that “UNIFIL is essential for the stability of Lebanon and the region, and must remain the guarantor of the cessation of hostilities between Lebanon and Israel.”

“At a time of great tensions it is essential for all parties to demonstrate the greatest restraint,” she said.

Kuwaiti Ambassador Mansour Al-Otaibi said negotiations on the resolution coincided with Israeli violations of Lebanon’s sovereignty and airspace, and “the Security Council should send a strict message to compel Israel to stop such violations.”

READ MORE: Israel says it has prevented imminent Iranian drone strike from Syria

The resolution reiterates the council’s call for Israel and Lebanon to support a permanent cease-fire and for the accelerated deployment of Lebanese forces in the south and the country’s territorial waters. It asks Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the Lebanese armed forces for “precise timelines” for those deployments.

Story continues below advertisement

The council again urged all countries to enforce a 2006 arms embargo and prevent the sale or supply of weapons to any individual or entity in Lebanon not authorized by the government or U.N. force _ an implicit criticism of the suppliers of weapons to Hezbollah.

Acting U.S. Ambassador Jonathan Cohen told the council the United States “remains steadfast in our commitment to UNIFIL and to Lebanon’s security, stability and sovereignty.”

WATCH: Hezbollah leader responds to Beirut, Syria attacks by warning Israel to be on ‘high alert’

Hezbollah leader responds to Beirut, Syria attacks by warning Israel to be on ‘high alert’
Hezbollah leader responds to Beirut, Syria attacks by warning Israel to be on ‘high alert’

Implementation of the arms embargo “remains a top priority,” he said, and in the coming year the U.N. “needs to take serious steps” to increase reporting and verify implementation of the arms embargo.

Cohen also called for UNIFIL’s unimpeded and timely access to the entire U.N.-drawn Blue Line boundary between Israel and Lebanon.

Eight months after the discovery of suspected Hezbollah tunnels, he said UNIFIL still can’t access the tunnels on the Lebanese side “because Lebanese leaders have not directed their armed forces to investigate suspected sites” with the U.N. peacekeepers.

READ MORE: Israel allows U.S. congresswoman’s West Bank visit on humanitarian grounds

“The fact that UNIFIL cannot access all of the areas within its area of operations leads us to believe that it is time to re-examine troop strength and begin the process of putting the mission on a trajectory toward right-sizing,” he said.

Story continues below advertisement

The resolution urges all parties “to ensure that the freedom of movement of UNIFIL and UNIFIL’s access to the Blue Line in all its parts is fully respected and unimpeded.”

Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon said the resolution sends “a clear message to the Lebanese government: restrain Hezbollah.”

“The terrorist organization’s grip on southern Lebanon is intended to only harm the state of Israel and endanger the entire region,” Danon said. “Israel will not accept such a reality, and calls on the international community to act resolutely against the Iranian proxy in Lebanon.”

WATCH: Israel’s Netanyahu urges continued pressure on Iran with sanctions

Israel’s Netanyahu urges continued pressure on Iran with sanctions
Israel’s Netanyahu urges continued pressure on Iran with sanctions