Israel claims Hezbollah is running a surveillance operation at the border under the guise of environmental work

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idf golan heightsFlickr/Israel Defense Forces

Israel told the United Nations Security Council on Thursday that Hezbollah was establishing observation posts along the Israeli-Lebanese border under cover of a purported environmental NGO.

In a letter, Israel’s envoy to the UN, Danny Danon, pointed to an incident in April, in which a patrol of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was denied access to an observation post flying the flag of the NGO “Green Without Borders,” by a group of locals.

Hezbollah’s purported use of such facilities under cover of the NGO is a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, passed at the end of the Second Lebanon War in August 2006.

In the letter, Danon called on the council to demand the Lebanese government dismantle the Hezbollah outposts, as required by the resolution.

The letter came on the same day that IDF intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Hertzl Halevi released video and photographs the IDF said showed the installations in question.

“Hezbollah is using an environmental organization as a cover for activities along the border with Israel,” Halevi said Thursday.

Speaking at the Herzliya Conference, Halevi warned that “Hezbollah blatantly violates UN Security Council Resolution 1701. We call on UNIFIL to undertake its responsibilities — not only in keeping the peace, but in removing the possibility of war.”

Israel has long criticized what it considers UNIFIL’s failure to disarm or meaningfully challenge Hezbollah, as required by the force’s mandate.

Members of Lebanon's Hezbollah wave flags after Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah addressed them from a screen in Beirut's southern suburbs, Lebanon May 20, 2016. REUTERS/Aziz TaherThomson Reuters

On a tour of the Israeli-Lebanese border earlier this month, US envoy to the UN Nikki Haley reportedly witnessed a heated exchange between IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi and UNIFIL commander Maj. Gen. Michael Beary.

After Beary reportedly told Haley the situation on the border was stable and did not require further intervention, he was interrupted by Kochavi, who argued that UNIFIL was not doing its job properly and was frightened to enter villages and cities in southern Lebanon and confront Hezbollah.

Kochavi called on Haley to help change the mandate of the international force to give it the capacity to disarm Hezbollah, said the report, which was carried by Israeli media.

An Israeli diplomat later apologized to Haley for Kochavi’s outburst, but she reportedly said she was glad she had heard the Israeli position, and that it would influence her work at the world body. Haley is considered a staunch supporter of Israel.

UNIFIL is an international force created by the Security Council in March 1978, to maintain quiet along the border between Israel and Lebanon. Since the 2006 Second Lebanon War, the force has also been charged with monitoring the cessation of hostilities between the two countries, supporting Lebanese troops deployed in the south of the country, and ensuring humanitarian access to civilians in the region.

The 15,000-strong UN force is also charged with ensuring “the immediate cessation” of attacks by Hezbollah, and of ensuring “the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations.”

Hezbollah has significantly built up its weapons stockpile since the 2006 war and has upgraded its arsenal to about 150,000 missiles, Israeli officials say. Israel also fears that some advanced surface-to-sea and anti-aircraft weapons systems have reached Hezbollah from Iran.

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