Israel charges UN with lax security on northern border

Special to World
Thursday, January 22, 2004

TEL AVIV Israel has determined that despite repeated pledges the United Nations refuses to cooperate with Israel in ensuring the security of its northern border with Lebanon.

Israeli military sources said Northern Command has reported that the UN Interim Forces in Lebanon, known as UNIFIL, has failed to take any action that limits Hizbullah insurgency activities along the Israeli-Lebanese border. The sources said UN troops and observers have ignored Hizbullah operations such as rocket attacks and the planting of landmines inside Israel.

"They have seen Hizbullah take offensive action inside Israel and have done nothing," a military source said. "Worse, is that UNIFIL hasn't even told us of Hizbullah activities in Israel that could have prevented casualties."

The determination by Northern Command came in wake of a Hizbullah anti-tank missile attack along the Israeli border on Monday. An Israeli soldier was killed and another was seriously injured when a Hizbullah anti-tank missile destroyed an Israeli D-9 armored bulldozer along the Israeli-Lebanese border near Moshav Zaarit.

The sources said UN observers along the Lebanese border saw Hizbullah operatives plant dozens of landmines inside Israel. But UNIFIL did not stop the Hizbullah or inform Israel's military.

On Jan. 6, Israel asked the UN for help in removing a Hizbullah landmine from the border area near Zaarit. Military sources said the UN refused and on Monday an Israeli bulldozer was sent to remove the mine just inside Israeli territory. During the operation, the sources said, the bulldozer, in an attempt to maneuver around the mine, moved two meters inside Lebanese territory. At that point, Hizbullah fired the anti-tank missile, which destroyed the bulldozer and killed its occupant.

"The IDF filed a complaint with the UN regarding the [Hizbullah attack] violation," an Israeli military statement said on Tuesday, "and it should be noted that UNFIL officers have acknowledged tonight that they saw the firing from Lebanon towards Israel."

In 2002, Israel accused UN peacekeepers of having accepted bribes from Hizbullah to overlook preparations to abduct Israeli soldiers. Three Israeli soldiers were killed in the October 2000 attack, and their bodies were kept by Hizbullah in its efforts to trade for the release of more than 1,000 Arab and Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

On Tuesday, Israeli combat aircraft attacked suspected Hizbullah training facilities in central and western Lebanon. The Hizbullah facilities were said to have been empty.

"There's no question that we have to find more attractive targets in order to deter," Knesset member Ehud Yatom, a former senior security official, said.

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