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UN chief warns of 'devastating' Israel-Lebanon war

July 3, 2010 9:33 A.M. (Updated: July 5, 2010 10:19 A.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an/Agencies - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned of "a resumption of hostilities" between Israel and Lebanon in a report obtained Friday by French newswire AFP.

Ban warned that "Amidst allegations of continued arms transfers to Hizbullah ... a perceptible increase in tension between the parties was recorded," in the 13th report on UN resolution 1701, which gave a mandate to UN peacekeeping forces to operate in southern Lebanon and ensure an end to hostilities following the war.

The Security Council resolution effectively ended Israel's 2006 war with Lebanon, in which more than 1,000 Lebanese civilians were killed.

Allegations of an arms transfers to Hizbullah began in April, when Israeli President Shimon Peres accused Syria of supplying the movement with Scud missiles.

Hizbullah officials neither confirmed nor denied the claim.

In his report, Ban said there was no evidence of the "unauthorized transfer" of arms, but noted that Hizbullah's existing weapons cache violates the resolution.

UN officials unhappy over tension with peacekeepers

An un-named diplomat urged Lebanese authorities to "curb" recent attacks on UN peacekeepers in the country's south, the the daily newspaper An-Nahar reported on Saturday, following a meeting between UNIFIL and Lebanese officials that sought to put an end to tensions.

Quelling concerns, the diplomat told An-Nahar that there was "tension" in the south, but said the "atmosphere wasn't so bad."

Stone throwing and blocked roads greeted UNIFIL troops as they expanded patrols in the Lebanon-Israel border region, amid accusations that the expansion overstepped the mandate provided by the UN.

A columnist for NOW Lebanon quoted the leader of one village where violence erupted as saying, “They wanted to go inside a house – the Lebanese army was not with them – and the people resisted. It was not political; no particular party did this ... It’s outrageous. Even our state police don’t do this!”

Some reports, however, said the resistance was mainly from Hizbullah supporters attempting to guard weapons stores.

UN peacekeeping officials said they had notified the Lebanese army about the patrols, and insisted that they were legitimate.

"We're not saying that there is a major crisis but we believe that there is some kind of deterioration in the atmosphere in south Lebanon," the diplomat added.

UN official, Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams, also spoke out about recent tension and low-level violence and called on the people of southern Lebanon to show full respect of UNIFIL's freedom of movement.

The un-named official used stronger wording, telling the Lebanese newspaper that UNIFIL does not need a permit to carry out its activities in the area, a zone 19 kilometers wide, stretching north from Lebanon's border with Israel.

Both officials reportedly asked the Lebanese army to step-up efforts to protect the UN force, which numbers 15,000, with Williams telling the speaker of the nation's parliament, "UNIFIL's freedom of movement was violated and UN troop-contributing countries are quite concerned. We must insist that the freedom of movement of UNIFIL is fully respected."
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