UN envoy protests Lebanon not giving peacekeepers access to Hezbollah tunnels
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UN envoy protests Lebanon not giving peacekeepers access to Hezbollah tunnels

Nikolay Mladenov tells Security Council that international forces are being prevented from inspecting the source of the cross-border tunnels uncovered by Israel

A United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) armored personnel carrier (APC) patrols along the border with Israel near the southern Lebanese village of Kfar Kila on December 4, 2018. (Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP)
A United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) armored personnel carrier (APC) patrols along the border with Israel near the southern Lebanese village of Kfar Kila on December 4, 2018. (Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP)

UNITED NATIONS  — The United Nations’ envoy to the Mideast said Tuesday that peacekeepers in Lebanon have not been given access to tunnels stretching into Israel, which UN officials say violate a case-fire resolution that ended a devastating war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006.

Nikolay Mladenov told the Security Council that the UN peacekeeping mission known as UNIFIL has confirmed that two tunnels crossed the UN-drawn Blue Line between Lebanon and Israel, but “has not been granted access to the confirmed entry points of a tunnel near Kfar Kila on the Lebanese side.”

He did not say whether Lebanon’s government or the Hezbollah militant group was blocking access for UNIFIL, but US deputy ambassador Jonathan Cohen blamed the government.

Cohen accused the Hezbollah terror group, an Iranian ally, of threatening international peace and security with the extensive tunneling exposed by Israel, which has reported uncovering six tunnels into its territory.

Nickolay Mladenov, left, United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, brief the United Nations Security Council in a video conference, Monday Nov. 19, 2018 at UN headquarters. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

“We commend UNIFIL’s work to keep the Blue Line under control, but it is unacceptable that the Lebanese government has not yet given UNIFIL access to the tunnel entrance on their side of the Blue Line,” Cohen told the council.

Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon complained to the council that “the Lebanese army has taken no action in response, allowing Hezbollah to continue building these tunnels undisturbed.”

Danon said that Iran funnels $7 billion to militant groups across the region, including $1 billion to Hezbollah, which he said has “grand plans to take over the Israeli Galilee” and invests millions in every tunnel. He provided no information on how Israel calculated its estimate of Iranian spending, which also included $4 billion to the Syrian government, “hundreds of millions” to Iran’s proxies in Iraq, tens of millions to Houthi Shiite rebels in Yemen, $70 million to Palestinian Islamic Jihad and $50 million to Hamas, which controls Gaza.

Mladenov noted that Lebanon has been without a government for over eight months and called on all parties to resolve their differences so the country “can address the man pressing challenges it faces, including that of a struggling economy.”

Last week the Israel Defense Forces  declared that its effort to find and destroy Hezbollah cross-border attack tunnels was coming to an end, following the discovery of another such underground passage over the weekend.

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)

“With the discover of this terror tunnel, the effort to locate the passages dug by Hezbollah that crossed the border into Israeli territory has been completed. The neutralization of this passage will be completed in the coming days,” the army said in a statement.

“According to our intelligence and our assessment of the situation there are no longer any cross-border attack tunnels from Lebanon into Israel,” army spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus told reporters.

On December 4, the IDF launched Operation Northern Shield to find tunnels that it says the Iran-backed Hezbollah terrorist group had dug into northern Israel from towns in southern Lebanon.

The military confirmed discovering at least six tunnels during the month-long operation.

“In addition, the IDF is monitoring and is in possession of a number of sites where Hezbollah is digging underground infrastructure that has yet to cross into Israeli territory,” the army said.

Israel has said it believes the tunnels were meant to be used by the Shiite terrorist group as a surprise component of an opening salvo in a future war, to allow dozens or hundreds of its fighters into Israel, alongside a mass infiltration of operatives above-ground and the launching of rockets, missiles, and mortar shells at northern Israel.

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