Israel Defense Forces chief Aviv Kohavi on Tuesday accused the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah of preventing UN peacekeepers from carrying out their duties along Israel’s northern border.
“Hezbollah has become a terror army operating in Beirut,” Kohavi said at a ceremony. “It’s grossly violating international law, it continues to arm itself, including with precise weapons, and to try and harm Israel.”
“Hezbollah is hoarding weapons and preventing inspections by the UNIFIL forces.” he said.
His comments come with UNIFIL’s mandate up for renewal at the end of the month. Israel, with the support of the US, is calling for major changes to its powers.
The United Nations Security Council remains at odds over the way the UN peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon operates on the ground, with the United States backing Israel’s demands for major changes.
UNIFIL was created to oversee the withdrawal of Israeli troops after a 1978 invasion. The mission was expanded after a 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah terrorists so that 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.
Israel has repeatedly accused Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorists of impeding the peacekeepers from carrying out their mandate.
Israel’s former ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said in May that Israel will insist that peacekeepers have access to all sites, that they have freedom of movement and that any time they are being blocked the UN Security Council must be immediately informed.
As of June 15, UNIFIL comprised 10,275 military personnel from 45 troop-contributing countries, 238 international civilian staff, and 580 national civilian staff.
Its Maritime Task Force comprised six vessels, two helicopters and 864 of the force’s military personnel. However, one vessel was damaged in the recent deadly explosion in Beirut and over 20 naval personnel were injured, two critically.
Kohavi’s comments also come the same day as a UN-backed tribunal’s conviction of a Hezbollah member for involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon acquitted three members of the Iran-backed terror group and said there was no evidence Hezbollah leaders or Syria were involved in the 2005 suicide truck bombing that killed Hariri and 21 others.
Israel called for action against Hezbollah, saying the terror group was behind both the attack and attempts to block a fair investigation of it.
“The Hezbollah terror organization and its people were involved in murder and obstruction of justice,” an Israeli Foreign Ministry statement said in response. “Hezbollah took the future of the Lebanese people captive in the service of foreign interests. Countries of the world need to act against this terror organization to help Lebanon be freed from this threat.”
The statement added: “The arming of the organization, its efforts to set up an arsenal of precision missiles and its operations endanger the entire region.”