JERUSALEM, Israel – Defense Minister Yoav Gallant was in New York Tuesday to deliver a warning to United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres: Iran is prodding its terror proxy in Lebanon to attack Israel’s northern border, and the UNIFIL peacekeeping troops in southern Lebanon should be empowered to prevent Hezbollah incursions.
“The potential for escalation on the northern border is increasing following a blatant violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty by Hezbollah’s military buildup,” Gallant cautioned.
He added, “The U.N. must urgently intervene to reduce tensions by strengthening the freedom of movement of the U.N. Interim Force to Lebanon in the region and implementing its mandate on the northern border.”
A statement from Israel’s Defense Ministry elaborated on the military’s concerns about Iran and Hezbollah, noting, “Minister Gallant raised the growing tensions on Israel’s northern border as a result of ongoing provocations and flagrant violations by the Hezbollah terrorist organization—including the erection of a Hezbollah tent within Israeli territory, the establishment of dozens of military compounds along the border and increasing patrols and presence by Hezbollah operatives.”
Another incident of particular concern to Israel was the detonation of a bomb in March by a Hezbollah operative near Megiddo in central Israel. It was perhaps the deepest penetration into Israel by the terror group since the 2006 Hezbollah war.
Meanwhile, a U.S. envoy, Amos Hochstein, has been dispatched to Lebanon to assess the situation in the southern part of the country. He’s meeting with UNIFIL officials Wednesday, the same day that renewal of the U.N. peacekeeping force mandate comes before the U.N.
Israel is concerned that the 10,500-member peacekeeping force might be hampered by new language in the mandate that would require UNIFIL’s consultation with the Lebanese army before making movements in the area.
Earlier this month, Gallant conducted a tour in the north with military officials, sternly warning Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, “You have made mistakes in the past, you have paid very heavy prices. If… an escalation or conflict develops here, we will return Lebanon to the Stone Age. We will not hesitate to use all our power and erode every inch of Hezbollah and Lebanon if we have to.”
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