Israel has called on the United Nations peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon to remove a top officer in the Lebanese army from a command post on Israel’s northern border, accusing him of being a Hezbollah operative, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported on Friday.
Jerusalem asked UNIFIL to ensure that Major Yahya Husseini, who serves as a “liaison officer” for Hezbollah, be removed immediately from his position, the report said.
Hezbollah “planted” Husseini into the Lebanese army as part of its goal to increase the influence of the terror group within the army, Israeli sources alleged.
Israel said that Husseini maintains continuous contact with Hezbollah operatives, gets instructions from them, and hands over information to the terror organization.
The report said that to Israel’s knowledge, Husseini was the first senior member of the Lebanese army to work for Hezbollah.
The request to UNIFIL came as the UN on Wednesday extended the mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission, which expired Thursday, giving its forces widened powers to address Hezbollah’s weapons buildup in the area.
As a result of the changes, which were approved by the UN Security Council, UNIFIL will increase its oversight activities in southern Lebanon, including by entering villages where the Hezbollah terror group operates.
The UN resolution highlights that UNIFIL has the authority to “take all necessary actions” in areas where its forces are deployed and must ensure that its area of operations is “not utilized for hostile activities of any kind.”
The expanded powers came following complaints from Israel over the international body’s failure to prevent Hezbollah from gaining strength.
France, a key player in the Security Council, argued that UNIFIL had succeeded in maintaining calm in south Lebanon. But the United States pushed for the mission to act against Hezbollah, which it accuses of stockpiling weapons and readying for war.
“Conditions in south Lebanon are very dangerous today. The clouds of war are gathering,” US Ambassador Nikki Haley told the council after the vote. “UNIFIL exists to help prevent war from happening again and it is supposed to do that.”