UNIFIL reportedly instructed to expand patrols in south Lebanon
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As UNIFIL confirms 3rd Hezbollah tunnel crossed into Israel

UNIFIL reportedly instructed to expand patrols in south Lebanon

Lebanese paper claims UN peacekeepers have been told to widen operations to better monitor Hezbollah’s weapons and activities near the Israeli border

A picture taken from the southern Lebanese village of Meiss al-Jabal on December 16, 2018, shows a United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) soldier monitoring the border between Lebanon and Israel. On his right is a flag of the Lebanese Shiite terror group Hezbollah. (Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP)
A picture taken from the southern Lebanese village of Meiss al-Jabal on December 16, 2018, shows a United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) soldier monitoring the border between Lebanon and Israel. On his right is a flag of the Lebanese Shiite terror group Hezbollah. (Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP)

United Nations forces in southern Lebanon have been instructed to boost and expand their patrols recently to new areas in a bid to better monitor Hezbollah weaponry, Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar reported Friday.

The report by the newspaper, which has ties to the Iran-backed terror group, had no outside confirmation.

Al-Akhbar claimed the recent weeks have seen UNIFIL peacekeepers receive instructions “to add new routes to their patrols and to enter areas they had not previously entered south of the Litani [river] under the pretext of full implementation of the Resolution 1701,” which ended the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.

According to that resolution, Hezbollah was to disarm entirely in the area between the Litani and the Israeli border. Israel has repeatedly accused the terror group of failing to do so, and of stockpiling numerous short- and medium-range rockets in southern Lebanon.

An unidentified source with security knowledge quoted by the paper said UNIFIL had been told to patrol certain new areas to look into possible Hezbollah weapons presence.

The source added that when the US military attaché in Lebanon visited UNIFIL headquarters last May, he warned of potential budget cuts by Washington if peacekeepers do not take a stronger stance to limit Hezbollah activities.

The paper claimed the new measures threaten the 13 years of stability in the region.

United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) military police cars drive past a concrete separation barrier between the southern Lebanese village of Kfar Kila and Israel on the border between the two countries on December 4, 2018 (Ali Dia/AFP)

On Thursday UNIFIL confirmed that a tunnel discovered earlier this year by Israel had crossed the Lebanese-Israeli border, in the third such breach of a ceasefire resolution.

“UNIFIL has informed the Lebanese authorities about the violation and has requested urgent follow-up actions,” the UN force said in a statement.

In December, Israel accused Hezbollah of digging cross-border tunnels into its territory from southern Lebanon and launched an operation to destroy them. According to the IDF, Hezbollah had planned to use the tunnels to kidnap or kill civilians or soldiers, and to seize a slice of Israeli territory in the event of any hostilities.

The IDF did not give a total figure for the tunnels found, though it announced in January that six were destroyed during the course of the operation. Five have been confirmed to exist by UNIFIL.

“Of these, three tunnels have been found to be crossing the Blue Line,” the peacekeeping force said on Thursday.

Israel has accused Iran of seeking to establish a military presence in Syria that could threaten Israeli security, and of attempting to transfer advanced weaponry to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Israeli soldiers stand around the opening of a hole that leads to a tunnel that the army says was dug by the Hezbollah terror group across the Israel-Lebanon border, near Metula, on December 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

This once quiet fight has become increasingly public in recent months, with each side issuing public threats and warnings.

Last week, the commander of the IDF’s Ground Forces said Hezbollah was still planning to carry out a surprise invasion of northern Israel despite the recent anti-tunnel operation.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Monday claimed Israel’s ground forces were unprepared for a military offensive in Lebanon.

AFP contributed to this report.

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