UN urges restraint as Lebanon set to file complaint alleging Israeli violations

As tensions spike between Jerusalem and Beirut following drone strike on Hezbollah stronghold, Hariri tells envoys of Security Council members: ‘Israel must be held responsible’

Farmers work in the plain of Marjayoun on the outskirts of the southern Lebanese village of Khiam, opposite the Israeli town of Metula, along the border with Israel, on August 26, 2019. (Mahmoud ZAYYAT / AFP)
Farmers work in the plain of Marjayoun on the outskirts of the southern Lebanese village of Khiam, opposite the Israeli town of Metula, along the border with Israel, on August 26, 2019. (Mahmoud ZAYYAT / AFP)

The United Nations called Monday for “maximum restraint” by all parties, after a reported drone attack in a Hezbollah stronghold south of Beirut that was blamed on Israel.

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the UN was unable to confirm the reports about Sunday’s incident, the latest in a series of attacks in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq in recent days blamed on Israel’s air force.

“The United Nations calls on the parties to exercise maximum restraint both in action and rhetoric,” he said. “It is imperative for all to avoid an escalation and abide by relevant Security Council resolutions.”

He said that the UN had “taken note” of statements by Lebanese President Michel Aoun, an ally of the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group, who denounced the reported drone attack as a “declaration of war.”

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also received a letter from the Lebanese government on the same subject, Dujarric said.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying it was “seriously worried” over the drone strike, saying such actions could “trigger a large-scale armed conflict with unpredictable consequences.”

“We call on the parties to demonstrate utter restraint and strictly comply with international law, including the corresponding resolutions of the United Nations Security Council,” it said, according to Russia’s TASS news agency.

Broken windows are seen on the 11-floor building that houses the media office of Hezbollah in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, August 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Early Sunday, two UAVs crashed in and around a Hezbollah stronghold in southern Beirut, causing damage to an office belonging to the group.

Hezbollah and the army pointed the finger at Israel, which has not commented.

Arabic media claimed early Monday morning that Israeli aircraft had carried out an airstrike deep inside Lebanon on a base belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command, a Syria-based terrorist group that fights alongside Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.

The base is located in the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon, near the border with Syria.

Israel has not taken responsibility for either incident.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri speaks during a conference at Chatham House in London on December 13, 2018. (Daniel Leak-Olivas/AFP)

Meanwhile, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Monday held a meeting with envoys from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia and China — and said Beirut would be filing an official complaint to the top UN body over the “clear Israeli violation of Lebanese sovereignty,” Lebanese news site Naharnet reported.

Hariri cited the need to avoid “any slide towards a serious escalation,” adding that this requires the international community to prove its rejection of this flagrant violation of our sovereignty and of Resolution 1701.”

Resolution 1701 was passed by the Security Council at the end of the Second Lebanon War in 2006, calling on Israel and Lebanon to refrain from attacking each other and violating each other’s sovereignty.

“Israel must be held responsible for its continued violations of Resolution 1701 since 2006,” Hariri added. “It must also be held responsible for the blatant attack on Beirut’s suburbs, seeing as it knew in advance that this would threaten the existing balance that preserved the security of the international border for 13 years.”

He and Aoun called a meeting of top defense officials for Tuesday to discuss the rising tensions, the report said.

An Israeli military vehicle patrols on the Israeli-Lebanese border near the village of Ghajar on August 26, 2019. (JALAA MAREY / AFP)

Israel is not thought to have bombed Lebanese territory since the 2006 conflict. An airstrike in 2014 attributed to Israel hit Hezbollah targets on the border, but it was not clear exactly in which territory the munitions fell.

Israeli warplanes fly over Lebanon regularly and have struck inside neighboring Syria from Lebanese airspace on numerous occasions. Israel also uses drones to monitor Hezbollah activity in southern Lebanon, according to Beirut.

Hariri on Sunday condemned Israel for allegedly sending the drones, calling it a “blatant attack on Lebanon’s sovereignty.” But he also urged restraint from Hezbollah, amid fears a reprisal attack could drag the sides back into war.

The Beirut drone incident came hours after Israel took responsibility for an airstrike in Syria that killed two Hezbollah members, prompting the terror group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah to threaten Israel with a reprisal attack.

Israel said the bombing of an Iran-linked base in Syria on Saturday foiled an imminent Iranian plot to attack the Jewish state with explosives-laden drones.

In a further spike in regional violence on Sunday there was an attack on an Iran-linked militia in Iraq, and on Monday, Israel bombed a Hamas base in Gaza in response to three rockets being fired into Israel from the Strip.

The string of incidents has raised fears of a widening conflagration in the region after years of Israel restricting its air campaign against Iran-backed fighters to Syria. In recent months, Israel has also been blamed for attacks on Iran-backed fighters in Iraq.

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