Lebanon has accused Israel of nearly 300 encroachments into Lebanese air space since the end of the Second Lebanon War, in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, Army Radio reported on Thursday.
In a letter to the United Nations, Beirut alleges that the Israel Air Force has performed 290 sorties into Lebanese air space over the course of the last four months. Lebanon also charges that Israel Defense Forces have illegally crossed the border into Lebanon on 52 occasions over the same time span. The letter alleges that one million cluster bombs dropped by Israel during the course of the war have yet to explode, and still pose a threat to human life in southern Lebanon. The Lebanese government is demanding that Israel provide maps in which the IDF’s bombing targets are marked so as to enable the Lebanese authorities to neutralize any undetonated ordnance. In addition, Lebanon maintains that Israel has yet to withdraw its forces from the northern part of the border town of Rajar, which is divided between Israeli and Lebanese sovereignty. Officials in Jerusalem acknowledged that there have indeed been aerial incursions over Lebanon, yet the objective is to prevent weapons smuggling from the Syrian border. “Hizbullah’s weapons kill, the flights haven’t killed anyone,” an official said. Meanwhile, Israel told the U.N. that Hizbullah has tripled its arsenal of C-802 land-to-sea missiles and has rehabilitated its military strength north of the Litani River. The information was included in a report compiled by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1701, which brought the Second Lebanon War to an end. A periodic report issued by the United Nations has, for the first time, defined the area covered by the Shebaa Farms on the basis of expert cartographic work. The report, the fifth to the Security Council on the implementation of Resolution 1701 which brought an end to the Second Lebanon War, also criticizes the continued rearmament of paramilitary groups in Lebanon, particularly Hizbullah. Although the report issued Wednesday criticizes Israel for continued violations of Lebanon’s airspace, and failure to provide all the data on the locations of cluster bomb attacks, it does not require Israel to enter separate negotiations on the fate of the Shebaa Farms, or to surrender the area to the U.N. In his report to the Security Council, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon released the findings of cartographer Miklos Pinter, whose assignment had been to determine the borders of the disputed area. “I am pleased to report that, based on the best available information, the senior cartographer has arrived at a provisional definition of the Shebaa Farms area,” writes the Secretary General. He also points out that “this exercise has not been aimed to delineate international boundaries as regards to the Shebaa Farms, but should assist Lebanon and Syria in their efforts to agree upon their common border.”
According to Pinter’s findings, the territory in question includes many IDF military positions, and serves as a strategic crossroads between the borders of Lebanon, Syria and Israel. The area forms a trapezoid beginning on the international border, close to the village of Majidiye in southern Lebanon, and moving southeast toward an area known as Ma’ar Shaba. It then runs along the Siyon stream toward the northeast, until it meets the international border again, just north of the Barhata Farms. Pinter’s findings are based on evidence he received from the government of Lebanon and on visits to the area on both sides of the border, the latest being on September 5, from the Israeli side of the border. According to the calculations of Dr. Yigal Kipnis from Haifa University, the territory described in Pinter’s findings includes large portions of Mount Dov, and covers an area of approximately 25 square kilometers. Israel is particularly pleased that the secretary general included in the report that the issue of the Shebaa Farms “cannot be separated from the principles and elements required for the permanent cease-fire and long-term solution identified in resolution 1701 (2006).”
The Shebaa Farms are in an area that was part of the French Mandate over Syria and Lebanon and which is now controlled by Israel, which annexed it as part of the Golan Heights. The area was never clearly marked since the British and French Mandates in the area. Following the IDF withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000, Lebanon has insisted that Shebaa Farms constitute part of its sovereign territory. However, at the time the United Nations determined that the area was part of the Golan Heights, and that the matter would be decided in a future agreement between Israel and Syria. Following the Second Lebanon War, the U.N. began marking the border area between Lebanon and Syria, and Israel has insisted that the sovereignty issue over the Shebaa Farms cannot be decided conclusively until the border between its two neighbors is fixed. Both Lebanon and Syria have asked in recent months that the Shebaa Farms be transferred to U.N. custody, but Israel is opposed to the idea. In his report, the secretary general was critical of Syria’s failure to provide the U.N. with specific details pertaining to the Shebaa Farms. In addition to the Shebaa Farms, which was only a portion of the report, the secretary general focused on the rearming of paramilitary groups in Lebanon, especially Hizbullah. Ban Ki-moon quotes Israeli sources as claiming that Hizbullah tripled its arsenal of C-802 anti-ship missiles, which struck an Israeli destroyer during last year’s war, killing four. Ban writes that Israel alleges that Hizbullah has rearmed itself “at a level higher than prior to last year’s conflict… that Hizbullah’s long-range rocket force is stationed in areas north of the Litani River, and that most of the new rockets supplies — including hundreds of Zilzal and Fajr generation rockets — have a range of 250 Km, enabling them to reach Tel Aviv and points further south.”
The U.N. chief wrote that “addressing [Hizbullah’s] disarmament remains critical to the extension of the authority of the government of Lebanon over all its territory,” and that Israel considers “the nature and number of weapons in Hizbullah’s control… a strategic threat to its security and the safety of its citizens.”
Reprinted from Haaretz