Israel petitions UN Security Council to act on uncovered Hezbollah cell
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Israel petitions UN Security Council to act on uncovered Hezbollah cell

Jerusalem ‘will not ignore the conversion of Syria and Lebanon into a military front against it,’ envoy Danny Danon says

Danny Danon, Israel's ambassador to the UN, speaks at the General Assembly on December 21, 2017, at United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Danny Danon, Israel's ambassador to the UN, speaks at the General Assembly on December 21, 2017, at United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Israel on Wednesday filed a complaint with the UN Security Council shortly after revealing it had uncovered a terror cell near the border in the Syrian Golan Heights.

“The State of Israel will not ignore the conversion of Syria and Lebanon into a military front against it and will act forcefully and aggressively against Tehran’s aggression,” UN envoy Danny Danon wrote.

“The Security Council still does not recognize Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, despite the accumulation of evidence of clear, and cross-border, terrorist activity,” he said. Danon called on Security Council to denounce Hezbollah’s actions exposed by the IDF, and to recognize it as a terrorist organization.

The Israel Defense Forces said earlier Wednesday that it had exposed a nascent Hezbollah cell established in a border village on the Syrian Golan Heights in recent months, and vowed to prevent the terrorist group from operating against Israel from Syrian soil, even at the risk of sparking a small-scale conflict.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a warning to Iran and Hezbollah that “Israel knows what you’re doing, Israel knows where you’re doing it.”

The Hezbollah cell is “just the tip of the iceberg,” Netanyahu, who also serves as defense minister, said on Wednesday.

The Iran-backed, Lebanon-based group has been trying to create a front in the Syrian Golan for years, but has struggled to gain a sufficient foothold in the southern border area. However, Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s conquest of the border area this summer gave the regime-allied group an opportunity to again try to establish the necessary infrastructure with which it could threaten Israel near the border.

In revealing the cell’s existence, the military said, “The network is new and currently focused on becoming familiarized with the Golan Heights area. It is intended to eventually control teams of Syrian operatives who will launch attacks against Israel.”

At this stage the Hezbollah plot — known within the organization as the “Golan File” — mostly involves collecting intelligence and recruiting operatives, but also has weaponry in its possession, mainly explosives, light arms, machine guns and antitank missiles, according to the IDF.

The military said the terror group may try to bring rockets, missiles and other weaponry into the area in the future, but is concerned that such munitions would be destroyed by Israeli strikes.

Military action against Hezbollah could lead to a retaliation by the terror group or its Iranian patron, but IDF officials said the army was prepared to risk such a conflict in order to avoid the larger threat posed by the cell.

The IDF said the cell largely comprised Syrian mercenaries — some of them Druze — but led by Lebanese commanders and “masterminded” by veteran terrorist Ali Musa Daqduq.

The new effort was largely a continuation of plans to establish Hezbollah infrastructure starting in 2013. These operations largely ended in early 2015 following an airstrike, attributed to Israel, that killed senior terrorist leader Jihad Mughniyeh as he visited the Syrian Golan along with a number of other senior Hezbollah members.

According to the IDF, many of the cell members took part in those previous efforts by Hezbollah to form a front on the Syrian border.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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