Lebanese Hezbollah MP tells Israel to ‘shut up’ about outpost on its territory

As Jerusalem continues to demand removal of tents set up beyond border fence but within its formal territory, Muhammad Raad says it can no longer dictate to anyone

File: The head of Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc Mohammad Raad speaks during a press conference at the Parliament in Beirut, Lebanon, December 8, 2010. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
File: The head of Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc Mohammad Raad speaks during a press conference at the Parliament in Beirut, Lebanon, December 8, 2010. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

The head of Hezbollah’s faction in the Lebanese parliament has told Israel to “shut up” and rescind its demand that the terror group dismantle an outpost set up within formal Israeli territory beyond the border fence between the countries.

Muhammad Raad, an MP who leads parliament’s “Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc,” was quoted by local media on Saturday as saying that “the enemy is demanding the removal of the two tents and prefers that the resistance do it because it doesn’t want to enter into an undesirable war.”

“If you don’t want war, shut up and walk back [the demand],” he said.

The outpost, comprised of a few tents, was set up by the Iran-backed terror group in early April north of the border fence, but on the Israeli side of the internationally recognized Blue Line in the contested Mount Dov region, an area claimed by Israel, Lebanon and Syria and also known as the Shebaa Farms. The UN and the Lebanese government have both since confirmed it sits south of the Blue Line.

Raad disputed the tents being in Israeli territory, calling this “the enemy’s interpretation.”

And he said neither Israel nor anyone else “can force anything anymore.”

“Gone are the days when you could bomb the nuclear reactor in Iraq without anyone batting an eyelid, and when you were not afraid of anyone. Now you can’t remove two tents because of the resistance.”

The Walla news site reported Thursday that the US is pressuring Lebanon’s government to clear out the outpost.

An aerial photo of Hezbollah tents in Israeli territory, June 2023. (Courtesy)

The report, citing four unidentified Israeli and American officials, said Jerusalem and Washington believe the outpost creates a serious risk of escalation along the border. It said Israel had conveyed a sharp message to Lebanon via the Americans that the outpost must be removed.

“Our goal is for the outpost not to be there,” an Israeli official was quoted as saying. “We prefer Hezbollah evacuate its people itself over us bombing them. We have made this clear to the US and the Americans made it clear to the Lebanese.”

The US State Department told Walla it would not comment on diplomatic conversations.

Israel has been reported to have made efforts behind the scenes since April to get the tents and operatives removed peacefully, but to no avail.

According to the Ynet news site, Israeli officials believe UN peacekeepers will not be able to act against the post and are looking to the US and France instead. The outlet claimed Israeli officials had set a deadline for the position to be removed, after which it will get rid of the tents itself, a move that could spark a wider conflagration.

In a recent letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the UN Security Council, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan wrote that Hezbollah’s actions constitute a violation of UN Resolution 1701, enacted following the end of the Second Lebanon War in 2006 and ratified by both countries. The resolution calls for armed groups besides the official Lebanese military and UNIFIL to remain north of the country’s Litani River.

The letter also contained photographs of the Lebanese position in Israel.

Furthermore, the former public security minister noted that Hezbollah has built 27 outposts along the Blue Line over the past year, and that he expects the UN to take action on the matter, as these positions also violate Resolution 1701.

An aerial photo of the Hezbollah presence in Israel in the letter from Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan to the UN Secretary-General and UN Security Council.

Meanwhile, Lebanon also turned to the Security Council to accuse Israel of provocatively violating Lebanese air and sea sovereignty.

Israel and Lebanon do not have a formal border due to territorial disputes, but they largely abide by the UN-recognized Blue Line between the countries.

The Blue Line is marked with blue barrels along the border and is several meters from the Israeli fence in some areas, which is built entirely within Israeli territory.

Photo from Ambassador Gilad Erdan’s letter.

The IDF has been working on a new border wall with Lebanon to replace an aging fence in the area. The engineering work, which typically takes place to the north of Israel’s fence but within Israeli territory, has sparked several minor clashes on the border in recent months.

Work on the wall began in 2018. By 2020, the military and Defense Ministry Borders and Security Fence Directorate had completed only 15 kilometers (9 miles) of concrete walling along the approximately 130-kilometer (80-mile) border in order to protect the 22 adjacent Israeli villages.

The plan is to construct a barrier along the entire border — a project that would cost NIS 1.7 billion ($470 million).

UNIFIL has stepped in at times and stopped the engineering work after complaints by the Lebanese Army of Israeli forces allegedly crossing the Blue Line.

The new Hezbollah posts were believed to have been established by the terror group in response to the IDF engineering work.

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