There have been over 1,000 Israeli violations of Lebanon’s sovereignty by land, sea and air over the last five months, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said Wednesday, highlighting the importance of UNIFIL’s continued presence in the south.
“In the year 2020, the total violations reached 374 on land, 386 at sea over the last five months alone, and 250 in the air over the last four months,” Diab said, speaking at a meeting with the ambassadors of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.
Diab said that in 2019 alone, there were 2,551 Israeli violations on Lebanon’s sovereignty by land, sea and air.
“Over the past 14 years, since the implementation of Resolution 1701, the United Nations forces have registered tens of thousands of Israeli attacks on Lebanon,” Diab said, adding that Lebanon meanwhile has shown “the highest level of Lebanese commitment to the decision.”
In this light, Diab stressed that the presence of UNIFIL’s forces “is today a necessity to prevent tension and to avoid any danger looming at the border as a result of escalating Israeli violations of Resolution 1701.”
The meeting was chaired by President Michel Aoun and held in the presence of the Chinese, French, Russian, British and US ambassadors. Aoun urged them to renew the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in South Lebanon.
UNIFIL’s mandate expires in August 2020 and Israel and the United States have been lobbying for its powers to be enhanced as a term of its renewal.
Speaking at the meeting, Aoun stressed the need for the continuation of UNIFIL’s mission especially during Lebanon’s current economic and financial crisis.
“The need for continuation of UNIFIL’s mission ... grows in the delicate circumstances that the country is currently passing through, the numerous crises that beset it from the unprecedented economic and financial crisis [and] the emerging coronavirus pandemic,” Aoun said.
The president stressed the importance of continuing and strengthening the partnership between UNIFIL and the Lebanese Army.
The US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft in May claimed that Hezbollah had "been able to arm itself and expand operations, putting the Lebanese people at risk."
She called on the UN Security Council to “either pursue serious change to empower UNIFIL or realign its staffing and resources with tasks it can actually accomplish.”
This has been interpreted as a call to allow UN forces to search private properties in south Lebanon.
“The reason for the meeting is that Lebanon inferred from UN discussions ... attempts and suggestions aiming to bring about change in Lebanon or to weaken its position,” Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti told local newspaper Al-Joumhouria ahead of the meeting Wednesday. “We wanted to inform the ambassadors of Lebanon’s firm and serious stance on this issue.”
Hezbollah’s head Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah previously spoke out against the US and Israeli attempts to expand UNIFIL’s mandate.
“If they want [UNIFIL] to stay, they're welcome. We also have no problem if they leave ... But we consider expanding its mandate as infringing on Lebanese sovereignty. The time where Lebanon's sovereignty is no longer respected has passed,” he said in an interview last Tuesday.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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