Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Saturday warned that his country would meet any perceived threats by Israel with an “appropriate response,” after the Israeli ambassador to the UN complained about his statements regarding the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group.
“Any attempt to hurt Lebanese sovereignty or expose the Lebanese to danger will find the appropriate response,” Aoun said in an official statement, according to Reuters.
Aoun was referring to a letter sent earlier this week to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres by Ambassador Danny Danon about the president’s remarks. Aoun said Sunday that the Iranian-backed Hezbollah plays “a complementary role to the Lebanese army” in countering Israel.
“As long as the Lebanese army is not strong enough to battle Israel … we feel the need for its existence,” Aoun told the Egyptian TV network CBC on Sunday.
On Saturday, Aoun called Danon’s letter a “masked attempt to threaten security and stability” in southern Lebanon — where Israel had maintained a security zone from 1982 until its sudden withdrawal in 2000, and which was the focus of fighting during the Second Lebanon War in 2006.
Hezbollah, which was founded in the early 1980s to fight against Israel’s military presence in Lebanon, has long justified its large arsenal of weapons as needed to fight against alleged Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty, despite Israel withdrawing all its forces from southern Lebanon in 2000.
The UN said Monday in response to Aoun’s remarks on Egyptian TV that Resolution 1701, reached as part of a ceasefire agreement to end the 2006 war, prohibits the country from being allowed to field militias such as Hezbollah.
UN resolution 1701 is vital for Lebanon’s stability and security, UN Coordinator Sigrid Kaag said in a tweet, adding that the resolution calls for the disarmament of all armed groups, with no weapons that are outside the control of the state.
On Sunday, The Times of Israel reported that Israeli officials believe Hezbollah and Lebanese troops are cooperating near the border with Israel, in contravention of UNSCR 1701.
According to the Lebanese online news agency Naharnet, Aoun followed up his comments by saying Tuesday that any decisions about arms would comply with Lebanon’s National Defense Strategy.
“The matter is subject to the National Defense Strategy which we have been trying to set when the incidents got ahead of us,” Aoun told Egypt’s Nile News TV.
“Lebanon, relative to its surroundings in terms of both human and economic power, is incapable of building a military force capable of confronting the enemy. Therefore it has to use special ways for fighting, involving regular (army) and popular forces. This is the idea that can be translated into a realistic plan,” he added.
The Lebanese president also accused Israel in his statement Saturday of occupying the Shebaa Farms — known in Hebrew as Mount Dov — a small patch of land captured by Israel from Syria in 1967, according to the Hebrew-language Ynet News site.
Lebanon maintains that the strip of land is a part of Lebanon, despite it having been under Syrian control from the 1950s until it was captured and later annexed as part of the Golan Heights by Israel in 1981.
Neither Israel, Syria or the United Nations recognize Mount Dov as Lebanese territory.
On Thursday, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said that the terror group is in possession of rockets capable of striking Israel’s nuclear reactor in the southern city of Dimona and threatened that it would turn Israel’s reported nuclear arsenal against it.
Agencies contributed to this report.