The Israeli military on Monday accused the Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist group of conducting clandestine activities along the border with Israel under the guise of an environmental group known as “Green Without Borders.”
The Israel Defense Forces made a similar claim in June 2017, identifying five observation posts owned by the non-governmental organization, which the army said were actually being used to carry out intelligence and reconnaissance work for the Iran-backed terror group.
“Now we are revealing a new position,” said a senior official from the IDF Northern Command.
The alleged Hezbollah observation post was located in the Lebanese town of Aadaysit Marjaayoun, less than a kilometer from the border and from the Israeli community of Misgav Am, according to the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“We see them gathering intelligence on Israeli activities,” the official told reporters.
The officer said the military believed that Hezbollah was using that information in order to prepare to commit attacks against Israeli military and civilian targets.
The senior official said the IDF had notified the peacekeeping United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) about the site and hoped it would inspect the observation post.
“We expect UNIFIL to surveil these positions and visit them. Until now, they haven’t done so,” he said.
UNIFIL did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
According to the IDF, the alleged Hezbollah position represents a violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 second Lebanon war.
The resolution calls for armed groups besides the official Lebanese military and UNIFIL to remain north of the country’s Litani River.
However, the official acknowledged that the IDF has not seen any arms inside the observation post — “at least not visible arms,” he said.
“But we can see military equipment and infrastructure,” the official added.
The IDF officer said the men were routinely seen watching Israel through powerful military-grade binoculars and taking photographs with expensive cameras.
Despite Resolution 1701 referring specifically to “armed forces,” the IDF officer said Hezbollah’s actions in the area nevertheless represented a violation of it as they amounted to forbidden military activities.
Last year, the United Nations rejected Israel’s claim that Hezbollah was using the NGO as a front for its activities.
At the time, UNIFIL said that while “Green Without Borders” members have planted trees in the area, it “has not observed any unauthorized armed persons at the locations or found any basis to report a violation of resolution 1701.”
In an apparent threat, the IDF said it was “constantly tracking the Hezbollah organization’s activities, as has been proven recently. It is aware of these activities and other activities as well.”
The “Green Without Borders” NGO is nominally an environmental group dedicated to maintaining Lebanon’s forests.
“But the people manning this position are watching the IDF and Misgav Am,” the senior officer said. “They are not interested in planting trees.”
Asked why the IDF was not taking direct action against this alleged Hezbollah post, the officer said it was because Israel was committed to upholding Resolution 1701.
“But of course this buildup is something we cannot tolerate. This is why we expect the Lebanese and UNIFIL to act against this,” the officer said.
The official said Hezbollah’s reconnaissance activities along the border represent a “small part” of its activities south of the Litani River, noting that Israel believes the group maintains a large stockpile of short- and medium-range rockets in southern Lebanon.
Israel has long criticized what it considers UNIFIL’s failure to disarm or meaningfully challenge Hezbollah, which the IDF sees as one of its primary threats in the region.
Hezbollah has significantly built up its weapons stockpile since the 2006 war and has upgraded its arsenal to between 100,000 and 150,000 mortar shells, rockets and missiles, Israeli officials say. The IDF also believes the terror group is working now to upgrade that arsenal and turn its current lot of simple rockets into precise munitions.
Israel fears that some advanced surface-to-sea and anti-aircraft weapons systems have reached Hezbollah from Iran as well.
Earlier this month, the Israeli military completed construction of a 13 kilometer section of a concrete-and-steel barrier along the so-called “Blue Line,” which serves as a border between Israel and Lebanon.