Lebanon ought to immediatly tackle cross-border tunnel crisis

The tunnels, a number of which have yet to be fully investigated and mapped out, were discovered earlier this month by Israel, with two of them leading into the Jewish state's territory.
by Rozana Bou Monsef

19 December 2018 | 19:06

Source: by Annahar

  • by Rozana Bou Monsef
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 19 December 2018 | 19:06

Israeli soldiers stationed along the Blue line (AP)

BEIRUT: The United Nations Security Council is set to convene Wednesday to discuss the recent discovery of "Hezbollah attack tunnels" along Israel's border, with the Lebanese state yet to adopt an official response to the latest diplomatic impasse.

Despite the U.N's peacekeeping forces confirming the existence of these tunnels, top Lebanese officials have thus far resorted to silence while weathering the storm pending the release of a full and comprehensive UNIFIL report on the matter.

The tunnels, a number of which have yet to be fully investigated and mapped out, were discovered earlier this month by Israel, with two of them leading into the Jewish state's territory. 

An official response can be expected once UNIFIL's investigation is complete, sources say, with some of the tunnels running 30 meters underground. 

Although where several of these cross-border tunnels lead remains unknown, their points of origin have been traced back to private properties in southern Lebanon, the source said. 

Their point of origin represents a headache both to the Lebanese state and UNIFIL, given that the peacekeeping force's mandate bars it from inspecting or entering private properties. 

The task of destroying these tunnels now falls on the Lebanese government, who is now faced with the challenge of enabling its armed forces to carry out this task. 

“UNIFIL has requested the Lebanese authorities ensure urgent follow-up actions in accordance with the responsibilities of the Government of Lebanon pursuant to resolution 1701,” it said.

As the diplomatic standoff continues to run its course, Lebanese officials must devise an official and convincing response amid Israel's scathing media campaign and rhetoric, veering away from Hezbollah's "silent treatment."

Lebanese responses up to this point can be viewed as an attempt to gain valuable time to develop an appropriate crisis management strategy, with the source indicating that these accusations took both Lebanon and the international community by surprise. 

The UNIFIL probe is expected to last days, if not weeks when taking into account the massive scale of these tunnels which initial examination shows took years to dig up. 

Lebanon and its President Michel Aoun now find themselves in a tough spot, faced with the task of casting aside complaints of violating Resolution 1701. 

Aoun, in his role as President and commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces and head of the Defense Council, is now expected to exhibit to put forth a strong showing in facilitating the Lebanese army's task in dissolving these cross-border tunnels. 

In other words, Lebanon simply cannot deal with this issue as it typically deals with Hezbollah to preserve the integrity of its institutions. 

Yet a war between Israel and Hezbollah remains far-fetched, with sources indicating the reluctance of all sides involved to escalate matters to such an extent. 

This, however, shouldn't be perceived by Lebanon as ample reason to take a back seat in dealing with this issue. Instead, it should oppose any resolution 1701 violations whether committed by Israel or Hezbollah.

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