Just one fortnight on from the United Nations General Assembly’s failure to pass a resolution condemning Hamas, the Security Council has failed to take any action in the face of Hezbollah terror tunnels recently exposed by the IDF.
On 04 December 2018 the IDF launched ‘Operation Northern Shield‘ to destroy a tunnel that had been dug across the border into Israel by the Iranian-backed terror group, Hezbollah, from Lebanon.
The cross-border tunnel outside the village of Metulla would have been used by the terrorist group to cut the community off, a senior IDF officer said, and Israeli Ambassadro to the UN, Danny Danon, claimed Hezbollah called the tunnel-building operation ‘Conquering the Galilee’.
The tunnel was 25 metres underground, two metres wide, and 200 metres long – of which 40 metres stretched into kiwi and apple orchards of Metulla. This week the IDF found the fourth such tunnel and filled it with explosives. Dozens more tunnels are believed to have been dug along the 130-kilometre border
The IDF called up a small number of reservists in preparation for potential retaliation by Hezbollah, despite the IDF activities remaining within Israeli territory. And as a precaution to protect civilians, the IDF Arabic-language spokesman issued warnings to Lebanese residents “to stay away from any offensive [tunnel] dug from Lebanese territory into Israeli territory.”
Two apparent Hezbollah militants ignored this advice and video evidence shows them approaching a hidden IDF camera and running away from it, as a device, which was attached to the camera, explodes.
Dr Daphne Richemond-Barak, Assistant Professor at the IDC Herzliya, told BICOM the tunnels are similar to the ones dug by Hamas on the Gaza border except Hezbollah had to dig through stone, making detection more difficult for the IDF. She also commented on the legality of the terror tunnels:
“This is absolutely a violation of international law, as well as of Israel’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and UN Security Council Resolution 1701.”Dr Daphne Richemond-Barak
Operation Northern Shield was fully backed by a number of countries. U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton said
My statement in response to Hizballah’s tunneling across the Blue Line. pic.twitter.com/KbcutHUOpe
— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) December 4, 2018
Russia expressed support for Israel’s right to ‘prevent anyone from entering the country,’; Bahrain’s foreign minister said Israel has the right to ‘eliminate the threat they face’; Germany condemned Hezbollah for digging tunnels that infiltrated into Israeli territory, with Ambassador to Israel, Susanne Wasum-Rainer, tweeting “The German Government strongly condemns the aggressive behavior of Hezbollah, as manifested in the tunnel system built in violation of Israel’s territorial integrity,”. And Britain’s Minister of State for the Middle East also expressed support for Israel’s efforts against Hezbollah, tweeting “UK condemns Hizballah [sic] tunnels into northern Israel. This is a blatant disregard of UN resolutions, threatening Israel and Lebanon’s stability. UNSCR 1701 must be implemented. UK supports Israel’s right to defend itself,”
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 ended a 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah. It called for “a full cessation of hostilities based upon, in particular, the immediate cessation by Hizbollah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations;” and also mandated the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to deploy as peacekeepers.
UNIFIL was charged with disarming Hezbollah but the 11,000 strong force has clearly failed in that mandate. Since 2006, Hezbollah has strengthened its military capabilities significantly with an estimated 130,000 short- and medium-range missiles and rockets stockpiled under civilian houses on the mountain overlooking Israel.
The tunnels were built under the watch of UNIFIL and under the homes of Lebanese citizens. After the IDF discovered the tunnels, UNIFIL confirmed that they “constitute violations of UN Security Council resolution 1701,” and characterised them as a “matter of serious concern“.
Hezbollah is a terror organisation founded and supported by Iran. There have been public displays of support for the group in Auckland by the same group that hosted a Holocaust denier and an Iranian diplomat who said “Today, we are facing the sinister phenomena of terrorism and extremism in the [Middle East], which are fueled and fanned by the enemies of Islam and the Zionist circles,”
Despite the Hezbollah leadership stating there is no distinction, New Zealand distinguishes between the ‘military wing’ and the ‘political wing’ of the organisation – only designating the former a terror group. And, despite Iran’s influence on Hezbollah and other terror entities and Iran’s appalling human rights record, New Zealand officials have remained silent.
The US called for a UN Security Council meeting to discuss the matter, which was held on 19 December. Ahead of the meeting, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, urged action, saying
…Ambassador Haley was right when she said two days ago at the UN that Hezbollah must be condemned for, here’s the quote, “jeopardizing the safety of the Lebanese people and violating Israel’s sovereignty.”
So I call on all the members of the Security Council to condemn Hezbollah’s wanton acts of aggression; to designate Hezbollah, in its entirety, as a terrorist organization; to press for heightened sanctions against Hezbollah; to demand that Lebanon stop allowing its territory to be used as an act of aggression and its citizens to be used as pawns; to support Israel’s right to defend itself against Iranian-inspired and Iranian-conducted aggression…I hope that the Security Council will stand up for the truth and for peace and security. I hope that it takes the necessary action, the correct action, the moral action. And in the meantime, Israel will continue to take all the necessary action to protect our people and to defend our borders.
At the security council meeting the British representative, Karen Pierce, said that Hezbollah has shown “blatant disregard for U.N. resolutions” with its military activities, calling it “deeply alarming.” The French representative said that the Hezbollah tunnels represent a clear violation of 1701 and called on the Lebanese Army to work with UNIFIL to investigate tunnels and help maintain calm. Kuwait’s ambassador, Mansour Ayyad Al-Otaibi, maintained that the tunnels do not pose a threat to regional security and blamed Israel for more serious violations of Lebanon’s sovereignty. He also denied that Hezbollah activities are of a terrorist nature. “This resistance is not considered a terrorist act,” he said.
These comments came after Danny Danon showed an aerial photograph of what Israel called a “private compound” near the border that concealed a tunnel. He also presented an aerial photo showing what he said were weapons-storage sites concealed in a border village. Dannon accused the Lebanese army of helping Hezbollah conceal their operations.
Despite the evidence and the clear condemnations of Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah terror activities from some member states, no resolution was passed at the UNSC meeting. This was because countries could not agree on whether to include Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace – which collected the evidence presented to the UNSC – in any text and Russia would likely veto any resolution without condemnation of Israel.
Regardless of the diplomatic stalemate at the United Nations, the IDF has started to destroy the cross-border tunnels and Netanyahu has called them “an act of war“. It is unlikely that Hezbollah will disarm or cease from its objective of destroying the state of Israel. Already some commentators are suggesting that the tunnels are a preview to a much larger debate over the Hezbollah missile factories in Lebanon and possibly preemtive strikes. Hopefully, UNIFIL will correct the past dozen years of neglect and help prevent another war.