Israeli envoy says UN must address Hezbollah ‘weapons buildup’
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Israeli envoy says UN must address Hezbollah ‘weapons buildup’

Echoing Nikki Haley, Danny Danon says UN peacekeeping force is 'blind' to arms violations by terror group in southern Lebanon

Israel's UN ambassador Danny Danon addresses the Security Council on October 19, 2016.  (UN Photo)
Israel's UN ambassador Danny Danon addresses the Security Council on October 19, 2016. (UN Photo)

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations on Saturday called on the Security Council to address the Hezbollah terror group’s “weapons buildup’ in southern Lebanon, echoing comments made by the United States envoy to the UN.

“US Ambassador Haley is correct. UNIFIL cannot continue to remain blind to the weapons buildup in southern Lebanon and they must put an end to Hezbollah’s Security Council violations to ensure calm in our region,” Danny Danon said, referring to the UN force tasked with keeping the peace on Lebanon’s southern border with Israel.

“I call on the Security Council to adopt a more robust UNFIL mandate that will address the serious security threats posed by Hezbollah,” he added.

Dannon’s comments mirrored those made Nikki Haley on Friday, in which she accused the commander of UNIFIL of of turning a blind eye to Hezbollah weapons smuggling.

United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks to reporters at UN headquarters, Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks to reporters at UN headquarters, Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Haley said the 10,500-strong UNIFIL force was “not doing its job effectively” and singled out its Irish leader, Major General Michael Beary.

“What I find totally baffling is the view of the UNIFIL commander General Beary,” Haley told reporters, accusing him of ignoring Hezbollah’s arms dumps. “General Beary says there are no Hezbollah weapons.”

“He seems to be the only person in south Lebanon who is blind. That’s an embarrassing lack of understanding on what’s going on around him,” she said.

UN envoy Nikki Haley and Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon on the Lebanese border, June 8, 2017. (David Azagury/US Embassy Tel Aviv)
UN envoy Nikki Haley and Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon on the Lebanese border, June 8, 2017. (David Azagury/US Embassy Tel Aviv)

Asked about Haley’s sharp criticism, United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said of Beary “we have full confidence in his work.”

Haley was speaking at UN headquarters as member states debated the future of UNIFIL.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, left, stands next to the UNIFIL commander Major General Michael Beary, center, of Ireland, during a visit to the UNIFIL headquarters in the southern Lebanese village of Naqura on April 21, 2017. (AFP/Mahmoud Zayyat)
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, left, stands next to the UNIFIL commander Major General Michael Beary, center, of Ireland, during a visit to the UNIFIL headquarters in the southern Lebanese village of Naqura on April 21, 2017. (AFP/Mahmoud Zayyat)

The existing mandate, last modified in 2006, expires at the end of the month, and the United States would like to see its language toughened.

Washington wants the UN force to take a tougher line on Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Shiite terror group that is represented in Lebanon’s government.

Israel alleges that Hezbollah is restocking its arms dumps and missile batteries in southern Lebanon, under the eyes of Blue Helmet peacekeepers.

But Russia, which is allied with Iran and thus with Hezbollah in support of regime forces in the conflict in neighboring Syria, wields a UN Security Council veto.

And US allies France and Italy, which have hundreds of soldiers in the UN force that would be in danger if it clashed with Hezbollah, are also concerned.

A fighter from the Hezbollah terror group is seen standing with a RPG near the town of Naqura on the Lebanese-Israeli border on April 20, 2017. (AFP Photo/Joseph Eid)
A fighter from the Hezbollah terror group is seen standing with a RPG near the town of Naqura on the Lebanese-Israeli border on April 20, 2017. (AFP Photo/Joseph Eid)

“Since 2006 there has been a massive flow of illegal weapons to Hezbollah, mostly smuggled in by Iran,” Haley alleged.

“They openly threaten Israel. Hezbollah is a terrorist organization that is very destabilizing to the region.”

Haley said the mandate obliges UNIFIL to work with the Lebanese Armed Forces to disarm illegal groups and that she would seek to underline this in the renewal.

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