Israel: Hezbollah uses NGO to conceal border posts

AP News
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Posted: Jun 22, 2017 3:27 PM

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel has filed a complaint with the U.N. Security Council accusing the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah of setting up observation outposts along the border on land purportedly used by an environmental advocacy group.

Israel said the posts violate the U.N.-brokered cease-fire that ended a war with Hezbollah in 2006 and asked the U.N. to order the Lebanese government to remove the posts.

"Hezbollah's continued military buildup and destabilizing activities in southern Lebanon have serious repercussions on both regional stability and the ability of the Lebanese government to effectively control its country," Israel's U.N. ambassador, Danny Danon, wrote in a letter to the Security Council and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

In Tuesday's letter, he said the world "cannot continue to turn a blind eye to Hezbollah's flagrant violations" of U.N. resolutions.

Israel says the posts were built on spots used by an environmental group called "Green Without Borders."

The Israeli military on Thursday released photos and video of what it said were the Hezbollah observation posts. One video showed a pair of uniformed men climbing onto a watchtower.

Israel says the environmental group has received funding in the past from Hezbollah.

A blog connected to the group says "for the sake of realizing our aims, we have an agreement of understanding and cooperation" with Hussein Haj Hassan, a Hezbollah Cabinet minister. The blog has not been updated since 2015, and a message sent to a contact was not immediately returned.

UNIFIL, the U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, said it was looking into the Israeli allegations. There was no immediate comment from Lebanon or Hezbollah.

Israel and Hezbollah fought a monthlong war in 2006 that ended in a stalemate. Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Shiite group, has since built up an arsenal that is now believed to include well over 100,000 missiles and rockets aimed at Israel.

Although Hezbollah has suffered heavy losses backing up the forces of President Bashar Assad in the Syrian civil war, Israel considers the group to be a serious threat. Israel is believed to have carried out a number of airstrikes in Syria on suspected arms shipments bound for Hezbollah.

Addressing a security conference on Thursday, the head of Israeli military intelligence, Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevy, called on UNIFIL to carry out its duties — "not only in keeping the peace, but in removing the possibility of war."

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Associated Press writer Philip Issa in Beirut contributed to this report.