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French Version

UNIFIL looking into new border violation by Israel

Laf says troops crossed near shebaa

Israeli soldiers made a brief incursion into Lebanon near the occupied Shebaa Farms over the weekend, the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) said on Monday. "A group of five Israeli soldiers on Sunday evening entered 150 meters inside the area of al-Shaal, east of Kfar Shuba (in southeastern Lebanon) and remained in the area for 10 minutes before leaving," an LAF statement said. It called the move the latest of several "blatant and repeated breaches of Lebanese sovereignty."

The LAF has informed the UN peacekeeping mission in South Lebanon of the incident, an army official told AFP.

Yasmina Bouzianne, spokeswoman for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), told AFP that the UN was investigating the incident.

"A joint UNIFIL-Lebanese Army investigation team was sent east of Kfar Shuba to look into the circumstances of an alleged Israeli Army Blue Line violation," Bouzianne said, referring to the demarcation line between the two countries.

"The investigation is still ongoing and UNIFIL is in touch with both parties to clarify the matter," she added.

Israeli warplanes regularly violate Lebanese airspace, but it is relatively rare for a land or naval violation to take place.

An Israeli warship entered Lebanese waters on March 18 before being intercepted by UN naval forces.

The overflights have drawn criticism from Lebanese authorities and the international community as they are in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 war between Lebanon and Israel.

Tensions have risen along the Lebanese-Israeli border since the February assassination of senior Hizbullah military commander Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus. Hizbullah blames Israel for the killing, but it denied any involvement.

Israel held a five-day nationwide exercise earlier this month simulating air and missile attacks on the country. Lebanese troops were put on alert despite Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's assurances that there was "nothing hidden behind" the drills.

Meanwhile, Iran's Fars news agency reported on Monday that a high-ranking Hizbullah official said the party would launch an offensive from the Occupied Palestinian Territories if the Jewish state launched a new war on Lebanon.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, made the statement in an interview with Syria's Al-Haqiqa magazine, the news agency said.

"We would not initiate war but in case they wage any war in the future ... there will be a counter-attack behind the front lines ... and for the first time since 1948 in Palestine itself," the official reportedly said.

When contacted by The Daily Star on Monday, a Hizbullah spokesperson denied that any of its senior officiuals had spoken to Al-Haqiqa.

On Saturday, Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported that Israel was concerned that Iran might start moving weapons to Hizbullah by ship.

Government sources told the daily that oversight of marine vessels by UNIFIL's naval wing was not efficient enough to enforce an embargo on weapons shipments into Lebanon and to pinpoint such shipments.

A government source in Occupied Jerusalem said Saturday that a year ago Israel indicated to Germany, which at that time commanded UNIFIL's naval wing, that it suspected Iran would send arms to Hizbullah by sea. The source said Israel voiced its concerns, and that Germany promised to increase its vigilance.

Beirut 15-04-2008
The Daily Star

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