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Israel Should Abide by U.N. Resolution 1701
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Claudio Graziano, commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon recently stated that Israel is violating the tenets of U.N. Resolution 1701 by flying over Lebanon, refusing to help remove unexploded cluster bombs fired during the Second Lebanon War during July-August of 2006, and failing to withdraw from Lebanon's Ghajar village.

By contrast, Graziano said that Hezbollah accepted Resolution 1701 and is abiding by it, and stressed that UNIFIL has developed an excellent collaboration with Hezbollah and with the local Lebanese. Israel, however, has been accused of violating Lebanon's air space on several occasions.

UNIFIL is now deployed in southern Lebanon (south of the Litani River), mainly along the U.N.-drawn Blue Line, which is the border between Lebanon and Israel. UNIFIL is in charge of monitoring military activity from Hezbollah and the Israeli Defense Forces, aimed at reducing tensions along that border.

UNIFIL has an important role in clearing landmines, assisting displaced persons and providing humanitarian assistance to civilians in the underdeveloped region of southern Lebanon. According to U.N. Resolution 1701, UNIFIL can "take all necessary action in areas of deployment of its forces, and as it deems with its capabilities, to ensure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind."

Graziano stated that apart from U.N. troops, Lebanese soldiers and hunters, no one south of the Litani River is armed, in accordance with Res. 1701. He also said that UNIFIL had been successful in carrying out its mandate to maintain the ceasefire that went into effect in 2006, stressing that the group's presence was vital in maintaining stability in that region.

Graziano complained that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak refuses to meet with him to discuss the situation in the Israel/Lebanon's border area and on the best way to implement Res. 1701. Barak has opposed that resolution from the start, and has repeatedly stated that the resolution has so far been a failure and a serious miscalculation by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

Israel is also accused of refusing to help remove unexploded cluster bombs remaining in southern Lebanon after the Second Lebanon War and is refusing also to provide maps of their precise location. Twenty-seven civilians and 13 deminers have been killed in explosions in southern Lebanon since the war ended in August 2006 as a result of Israeli cluster bombs remaining in Lebanese territory, according to the U.N. Mine Action Coordination Center.

According to Human Rights Watch, Israel rained as many as 4.6 million submunitions across southern Lebanon in at least 962 separate strikes. This estimate is higher than previously reported by other sources, and is based on information provided by soldiers who fired cluster munitions from Multiple Launch Rocket Systems.

Because these submunitions that are released by cluster bombs affect a wide area, they virtually guarantee civilian casualties when they are used in populated areas. Also, because they don't always explode on impact, they may cause civilian casualties for years to come.

Many of the attacks on Lebanese populated areas didn't appear to have a specific military target, according to research carried out by Human Rights Watch. Israel's Winograd Commission stated in its report on the Lebanon War: "Our main concern is the vagueness existing in the army throughout the war and continuing today concerning the legality of the use of cluster munitions and the conditions necessary for such use."

The report also critiqued the lack of "operational discipline, control and oversight" in the army's deployment of weapons in civilian areas.

The Lebanese Ambassador to the United Nations Nawaf Salam also criticized the continuing Israeli occupation of the region north of Ghajar and the Shebaa Farms which can be considered violations of Resolution 1701, since that occupation contributes to maintaining tensions on that region.

If Israel is truly interested in reaching a lasting peace with Lebanon it should start by resolving these three outstanding issues. As Carlos Duguech, director of the radio program Peace in the World told me recently in Argentina, "Lebanon should stop being the battlefield of internecine wars and foreign power disputes and become the peaceful country that it deserves to be."

by Cesar Chelala a foreign correspondent

Source >
  Middle East Times

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