Russia has reportedly told Lebanon that it should ensure the border region with Israel abides by a United Nations Security Council resolution for maintaining peace, and that it should remove any attack tunnels dug under the boundary by the Hezbollah terror group.
Moscow sent a message to Beirut that it should not “play around with UN Resolution 1701,” Channel 10 news reported Monday, citing a report from the London-based Arabic daily newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat.
UN Resolution 1701 ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War and required all armed groups besides the Lebanese military to remain north of the country’s Litani River.
Sources said the Russians told the Lebanese government to resolve the problem even if the tunnels were created at the initiative of the Iran-backed Hezbollah.
Above: An alleged Hezbollah member walks through a tunnel dug into Israeli territory from southern Lebanon, December 4, 2018.
The communication to Lebanon came following recent meetings between senior Israel Defense Forces officers and Russian authorities in Moscow. During the talks the IDF delegation reportedly presented details of the Hezbollah tunnels, four of which have been found as part of a military effort to find and destroy passages dug by Hezbollah from Lebanon.
Israel maintains that the tunnels represent a “serious violation of Resolution 1701 and the State of Israel’s sovereignty.”
Operation Northern Shield has raised prospects of a possible fresh conflict on the volatile border, though Lebanon has downplayed chances of war so long as Israeli troops do not cross the border. United Nation peacekeepers have also stepped up patrols to ensure the frontier remains calm.
The UN Security Council is to hold a meeting about the tunnels later this week.
Over the weekend the IDF said it had found a fourth tunnel dug under the border from southern Lebanon.
The IDF refused to specify where the tunnel was found, but said the “relevant local governments” were notified of its location.
“The tunnel is under IDF control and does not present a threat,” the army said in a statement.
The IDF filled the tunnel with explosives — as it did with the three other tunnels it exposed in recent weeks — in order to ensure that it could not be used to carry out an attack.
Israel’s military believes the tunnels were meant to be used by the Iran-backed terror group as a surprise component of an opening salvo in a future war, to allow dozens or hundreds of terrorists into Israel, alongside a mass infiltration of operatives above-ground and the launching of rockets, missiles, and mortar shells at northern Israel.
The army has also said it is aware of the existence of other tunnels, but has yet to fully expose them.
The specific number of tunnels that Israel believes were dug from Lebanon, as well as other information about the operation, cannot be published by order of the military censor.
An IDF incursion into Lebanon could spark a major confrontation with Hezbollah, which bills itself as a defender of Lebanon against Israeli aggression.
Israeli officials have indicated that the IDF may operate within Lebanese territory, if necessary, to destroy the tunnels. Lebanese President Michel Aoun, a Hezbollah ally, said last week that the United States assured him that Israel has “no aggressive intentions” with its Operation Northern Shield.
Russia, Iran, and the Lebanon-based Hezbollah have been allied in their efforts to help the Syrian regime defeat rebel forces in that country’s civil war which began in 2011.
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.