Briefing the Security Council, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said that a thorough investigation to establish the trajectories and points of origin of the tunnels “is a complex task” as they are between 29 and 46 metres below ground, difficult to detect, and near areas sensitive to both parties.
“While the tunnels do not appear thus far to have exit points on the Israeli side, they are a serious violation of resolution 1701,” he said.
“UNIFIL is acting judiciously to complete its investigations of the tunnels – with technical teams on the ground – and to work with both parties to ensure that any tunnels that are in violation of the resolution are disabled decisively and safely.”
He also informed the Council that, from the outset, UNIFIL has sought to “accurately assess” the alleged violations as well as work with the parties to maintain calm along the Blue Line.Calm prevails, but there is ‘potential for miscalculation’
Commending both the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) for their stated commitment to use established coordination arrangements and their intention to avoid any escalation, the head of UN peacekeeping operations warned however that the “potential for miscalculation … cannot be underestimated.”
“The parties have been reminded that provocative activities along the Blue Line and heightened rhetoric contribute to an environment of increased risk,” he cautioned.
Mr. Lacroix further told the Security Council that the UN mission has observed demonstrations near Meis al-Jabal, some of which were led by Members of Parliament in Lebanon and had few protesters “crossing” the Blue Line.
In a separate instance, on 17 December, in connection with works being carried out by the IDF south of the Blue Line, a LAF soldier “cocked his weapon”, directing it towards the IDF.
Thereafter, both IDF soldiers and LAF personnel took up positions, pointing weapons at each other, leading to increased tensions, he said, adding that the situation was de-escalated by the intervention of UNIFIL liaison officers, who were present their throughout the stand off.
“UNIFIL has deployed additional troops and liaison teams to sensitive locations along the Blue Line. UNIFIL will continue to assist the parties to maintain calm and meet their obligations under resolution 1701 (2006),” he added.