November 21 2008
Violations of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 continue to take place and additional progress toward fulfilling obligations is overdue, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in his eighth report on the resolution’s implementation. “I am pleased to report that all parties continue to express their support for and commitment to Resolution 1701 ,” Ban said, according to a copy of the report obtained by The Daily Star “However, further progress in the implementation of the resolution is increasingly overdue.”
The secretary general’s report also expressed concern over the residual security threats facing Lebanon and the recent political uncertainty in Israel after Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni failed to form a coalition government.
As in his prior reports, the UN chief thoroughly catalogued Lebanon’s and Israel’s compliance with obligations detailed in the resolution, which effectively ended the hostilities of the 2006 summer war.
Noting few improvements, Ban cited a number of breaches, including Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty, the alleged rearmament of Hizbullah and the presence of armed factions in Lebanon.
“The parties generally maintained respect for the Blue Line, apart from the area of Ghajar, where the [Israeli military] still occupies the part of the village and an adjacent area north of the Blue Line in violation of Resolution 1701,” the report said. The Blue Line was established as a UN-mandated line of withdrawal during Israel’s 2000 pullout from most of South Lebanon.
The United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has presented a plan for Israeli withdrawal from the village, which is divided between Lebanon and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, but Israel has repeatedly rejected an immediate pullout.
Ban also criticized Israel for its serial violations of Lebanese airspace. “Intrusions into Lebanese airspace by Israeli aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles continued in high numbers in violation of Lebanese sovereignty and Resolution 1701,” Ban said. The UN chief called on Israel to “cease immediately” all overflights.
Additionally, the report voiced concern over an escalation of rhetoric between Israel and Hizbullah, including threats against civilian targets. “I am disturbed by the repeated exchange of threats between Israel and Hizbullah, in particular when apparently directed against the civilians,” it said.
Ban, however, did highlight progress on the humanitarian front. Referring to the Hizbullah-Israel prisoner exchange in mid-July, he declared that “after 18 months of intense efforts, the humanitarian aspects of Resolution 1701 had been met.”
Concerning Hizbullah, the secretary general cited Israeli concerns that the group is rebuilding its military capacity on both sides of the Litani River. Ban noted that UNIFIL “has neither been provided with nor found any evidence that of new military infrastructure or the smuggling of arms into its area of operations.”
But he said that Hizbullah’s extensive weapon’s cache stood “in direct contravention of resolutions 1559  and 1701,” adding that the group may have sought to build its military capabilities.
Ban also noted that the proliferation of weapons in Lebanon, in violation of an arms embargo, and the presence of other, autonomous armed factions, continued to present security dangers.
“I reiterate the need for the immediate and unconditional respect of the arms embargo on Lebanon,” Ban said. “It must be observed fully and without exception. Regional parties, particularly those that maintain ties with Hizbullah and other armed groups in Lebanon are obliged to abide fully.”
He cited, specifically, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command and Fatah al-Intifada, both operating near the Lebanese-Syrian border.
As in his most recent report on Resolution 1559, Ban welcomed the establishment of diplomatic ties between Lebanon and Syria, but he warned, referring to the findings of the second Lebanese Independent Border Assessment Team, that the border remains porous, largely unpatrolled and open to weapons trafficking.
The secretary general also noted some improvement in cluster-bomb, mine and other unexploded ordnance removal in the South, adding that these munitions continue to kill and wound citizens and mine-clearers. Israel, he noted, has yet to release information on the “number, type and location” of cluster bombs dropped during the 2006 conflict.
Regarding the Shebaa Farms and the delineation of parts of the southern and southeastern Lebanese border, Ban said that investigative work continues but little progress has been made.
Overall, the report expressed satisfaction that hostilities has not been renewed, while noting that more progress in implementing the resolution should have been made since 2006.
Israel rejects UNIFIL plan for Ghajar pullout
BEIRUT: The Israeli Cabinet rejected on Thursday a United Nations proposal that it withdraw from the northern part of the occupied village of Ghajar.
According to a statement, the Cabinet’s council for political and security affairs rejected United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) commander Claudio Graziano’s proposal, but added that cooperation with UNIFIL would continue until a solution is reached.
UNIFIL spokeswoman Yasmina Bouziane responded Thursday with a statement saying the issue was of special importance to the UN.
“UNIFIL had submitted a proposal to the parties to facilitate [the Israeli military’s] withdrawal from northern Ghajar and the adjacent area north of the Blue Line. We have since been engaged in discussions in this regard,” she said, noting that “according to UN Security Council Resolution 1701 Israel is obliged to withdraw from the area.”