Annan: Baalbeck operation is violation of the ceasefire

By Shlomo Shamir and Yoav Stern

Haaretz

Av 26, 5766

Following an Israel Defense Forces commando raid near Baalbek in eastern Lebanon on Saturday, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Israel has violated the UN-backed truce and made him "deeply concerned."

"The secretary-general is deeply concerned about a violation by the Israeli side of the cessation of hostilities as laid out in Security Council resolution 1701," a spokesman for Annan said in a statement posted on the UN Web site.

The statement said that according to UN peacekeepers in Lebanon, "there have also been several air violations by Israeli military aircraft."

"All such violations of Security Council resolution 1701 endanger the fragile calm that was reached after much negotiation and undermine the authority of the government of Lebanon," the statement said.

"The secretary-general further calls on all parties to respect strictly the arms embargo, exercise maximum restraint, avoid provocative actions and display responsibility in implementing resolution 1701."

Annan: Europeans undermining creation of UNIFIL force
United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has criticized European member states for failing to send troops to expand the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) as mandated under UN Resolution 1701.

While states such as Bangladesh and Nepal are already committed to sending troops, the leading European countries with the best-equipped armies and logistics operations have been slow to respond to Annan's urgent pleas for personnel.

Saturday's raid by the IDF near Baalbek in eastern Lebanon, purportedly to prevent arms deliveries to Hezbollah, is not expected to make the UNIFIL recruitment operation any easier.

Aides to Annan envision a three-stage scenario for recruiting reinforcement for UNIFIL, to be completed within 10 to 12 weeks. In the first stage, efforts will be made to send a contingent of 3,500 soldiers to southern Lebanon by August 28. A month later, a few thousand more troops will be sent, and by late October the full complement of 15,000 should be deployed.

In the first report on the cease-fire he submitted to the Security Council, Annan said Friday that UNIFIL would not wage war against Israel, Lebanon or Hezbollah. He reiterated his request that member states provide "desperately needed soldiers" for the UN peace force.

"It is not expected to achieve by force what must be realized through negotiation and an internal Lebanese consensus," Annan told the Security Council.

UN Deputy Secretary General Mark Malloch Brown, who is in charge of recruiting reinforcements to UNIFIL, emphasized the force's policing mandate.

"It is not an offensive force," Brown said. "It's not going to go in there and attempt large-scale disarmament. Rather it is going to police the political agreement that triggers disarmament, called for under the resolution, and therefore it will make a prudent use of force."

The Lebanese Army continued Saturday to redeploy along the country's border with Israel. Brigade 10 reached villages close to the Israeli border in the west, including Shaba and Al-Hiam. Approximately three battalions were deployed along Lebanon's northern border with Syria in an effort to prevent cross-border smuggling.

The redeployments are coordinated with UNIFIL and with the Israel Defense Forces. By arrangement, the IDF is withdrawing from areas where UNIFIL is deployed, with the Lebanese Army taking over afterward. There were reports over the weekend of IDF forces penetrating a few kilometers into Lebanese territory, where they arrested a young Lebanese man and raided the home of a religious leader.

Britain's Guardian newspaper published a report Saturday, based on sources close to senior Lebanese Army officials, that the army has agreed with Hezbollah that any weapons the militia displays in public would be confiscated. The army does not intend to raid homes to search for arms, however.

"The army knows there is a gun in every household, they are not going to go out and look for them ... What we are concerned about is the launchers. There is an agreement with Hezbollah that any weapons found will be handed over," retired general Nizar Abdel-Kader, a former deputy chief of staff for army personnel who is in close communication with the army command, told the Guardian.

According to reports at UN headquarters, Italy has promised to send a large number of troops to UNIFIL. France, meanwhile, was roundly criticized on Friday for backing out its commitment of troops to the force.

Peretz: Raid unlikely to end cease-fire
The Defense Ministry on Saturday said the operation will probably not bring the cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah to and end.

The ministry's statement said the raid "does not breach the cease-fire and was an essential operation that aimed to prevent Hezbollah's rearming."

"The defense minister congratulates the fighters who attained the goals in a brave operation that was performed perfectly," the statement said.

The office of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Saturday said Annan called the prime minister to relay a complaint from the Lebanese government about the raid.

According to Olmert's office, the prime minister replied "the raid aimed to prevent Hezbollah from rearming and from receiving new supplies."

Olmert also emphasized in the conversation the importance of monitoring the Syrian-Lebanese border in order to prevent arms smugglings.

Sources in Jerusalem said that Israel views the raid as "a defensive measure and therefore does not constitute a breach of the cease-fire." According to the sources, Hezbollah fired at the raiding force as it returned from its mission, which was completed successfully.

The IDF said Saturday that the raid could "provide Hezbollah with an incentive to attack the Israeli forces that remain in south Lebanon."

"The operation will not bring the cease-fire to and end and will not cause for the renewal of Katyusha fire on communities in the north," the army said.