Early this month, Israel Defence Forces (IDF) began Operation Northern Shield to detect and destroy tunnels built crossing the Blue Line, which separates the border between Israel and Lebanon. During this operation, four tunnels were found — two of which violate Israel’s and Lebanon’s 2006 ceasefire agreement. As of now, IDFs have not yet found tunnel exits in Israel, though these tunnel findings have been verified by the United Nation Interim Forces in Lebanon.
According to Al Jazeera, the agreement marked under the 1701 Resolution states that “Lebanon’s army is responsible for security on its side of the border in a zone from which any other armed force, including Hezbollah, is banned.”
The IDF strongly believes Hezbollah is to blame for the creation of the tunnels into Israel, but Hezbollah has not made any comments about their connection to the tunnels. And while tensions are mounting, both Israel and Lebanon have agreed that peace and the resolution must both be maintained.
According to the UN, Major General Del Col, the head of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, believes “… This is work in progress, and UNIFIL will make every effort to maintain clear and credible channels of communication with both sides so that there is no room for misunderstanding on this sensitive matter.” The UNIFIL peacekeepers have increased in number, and have been working hard to maintain a healthy dialogue and collaboration on both sides to see that the tunnels are dealt with in a peaceful manner. These added precautions proved helpful in resolving disputes between LAFs and IDFs along the Blue Line, where mere symbolic acts and the placement of barbed wire could result in serious conflicts.
Excavation of the tunnels proves no easy task. According to the UN, reports suggest that the tunnels are between 29 and 46 meters below ground. In a statement to the Security Council, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, stated, “UNIFIL is acting judiciously to complete its investigations of the tunnels — with technical teams on the ground — and to work with both parties to ensure that any tunnels that are in violation of the resolution are disabled decisively and safely.”
However, according to the New York Times, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called out Hezbollah’s creation of the tunnels, declaring that “This is not merely an act of aggression. It’s an act of war.” Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu goes further to state that “Their goal has been to penetrate our territory, to kidnap our people… murder civilians, and conquer the northern piece of the Galilee.” Lebanon President Michel Aoun on the other hand believes that peace between the two nations is not at stake, and that the situation is being taken very seriously.
UNIFIL’s effective efforts in keeping the situation between Israel and Lebanon calm should be applauded. The UN has been working to maintain dialogue between the nations and has done a laudable job. UN peacekeepers were also notably instrumental in decreasing tensions between soldiers on both sides.
On December 17, while stationed along the Blue Line “a LAF soldier cocked his weapon, directing it towards the IDF,” which resulted in both LAFs and IDFs pointing their weapons at each other. UNIFIL officers were able to peacefully alleviate tensions for both parties.
The Blue Line is not precisely an international border, but rather a point which marks Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon, separating the two nations, and was created by the UN in Resolution 425. The 1701 resolution issued a ceasefire on August 11, 2006, which ended the Israeli-Lebanon war. This resolution was signed with the insistence that the Government of Lebanon retain control over the nation’s territory, and a seven point plan was developed to ensure this condition was met.
The situation along the Blue Line is a serious issue for international stability and peace. If Lebanon’s Government does not effectively gain control over weapons being used by Hezbollah, tensions between the two countries will be sure to rise. However, both Israel and Lebanon’s objective to maintain the 1701 resolution is commendable, and there is hope that peace between the two governments can be maintained for more years to come, although tensions between Israel and Hezbollah may continue to increase.