Tuesday, April 22, 2008

UNIFIL buries report of Hezbollah arms smuggling

UNIFIL knows quite well that Hezbollah is smuggling arms from Syria - in direct violation of UN Resolution 1701 that ended the Second Lebanon War -but since it never had any direct evidence it always downplayed that fact.

So, for example, in the February report from the Secretary General on the implementation of 1701, we will see a paragraph that is skeptical about Israeli claims that Hizbollah is re-arming, like this one:
26. Israel maintains that Hizbullah is significantly rebuilding its military presence and capacity, inside the UNIFIL area of operations. At times, the Israel Defense Forces has provided UNIFIL with information about locations in the UNIFIL area of operations, in which it claims that these activities are taking place. UNIFIL, in collaboration with the Lebanese Armed Forces, immediately investigates all such claims if sufficiently specific information is received. To date, it has found no evidence of new military infrastructure in the area of operations. Israel also claims that Hizbullah has adapted its modus operandi in order to conceal its activities from UNIFIL and the Lebanese Armed Forces, and has relocated its operations mainly to urban areas. UNIFIL has observed that its operational activities are on occasion being closely monitored by unarmed civilians. However, UNIFIL constantly changes its patrolling patterns to maintain the highest level of effectiveness.
And then, much later in the report, the UN will grudgingly admit:
39. In my last report to the Council on the implementation of resolution 1701 (2006), I drew attention to alleged breaches of the arms embargo across the border between Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic and the claimed transfer of sophisticated weaponry from the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Syrian Arab Republic across this border. In its letter dated 10 December 2007 (S/2007/724), the Syrian Arab Republic countered those claims and maintained that allegations of weapons smuggling across the Syrian-Lebanese border were motivated by political rather than security considerations. However, Hizbullah, by admission of its leaders on several occasions, has replenished its military capacity since the 2006 war with Israel. I therefore remain concerned that this border remains vulnerable to such breaches, which would represent serious violations of the resolution and constitute a significant threat to the stability and security of Lebanon.
And at the very end...
71. I remain concerned about ongoing reports and Hizbullah public statements that point to breaches of the arms embargo, in serious violation of resolution 1701 (2006).
So as of February, the UN knew that both Israel and Hezbollah claimed that Hezbollah was smuggling arms into Lebanon but it wasn't quite willing to admit that it was being hoodwinked by Hezbollah.

This seems to have changed in late March.
Armed Hizbullah militants warded off members of UNIFIL last month when the peacekeepers discovered a truck carrying weapons and ammunition.

On March 30, UNIFIL troops on patrol discovered the truck, chased it down and pulled it over. When the troops approached the vehicle, armed Hizbullah men exited the truck and threatened the troops at gunpoint. The UNIFIL patrol then went back into their cars, according to the source, and returned to their base.

The report submitted to the Security Council said the incident occurred on the night between the 30 and 31 of March. "This serious violation of the UN resolution raises concerns," the report said.

Israeli security officials believe that Hezbollah forces are usually found in areas where the organization enjoys centralized civilian support. There are many areas that answer to that description in south Lebanon because most of the residents in the south of the country are Shiite Muslims, who support Hezbollah.

The incident, referred to in a semi-yearly report submitted to the UN Security Council by Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, was not reported in the media at the time.
I could not find this report on the UN website. If anyone else can, I would appreciate it.

Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace get prominently reported by UNIFIL, publicly, but Hezbollah violations that are much more severe are downplayed, minimized and essentially ignored. Not only that, but the obvious evidence that Hezbollah knows how to smuggle weapons under the UNIFIL radar, perhaps even in collusion with some UNIFIL troops, is ignored as well.