Lebanon speaker says Israel gave no proof of border tunnels

Lebanon‘s parliament speaker said Israel provided no evidence of the existence of cross-border attack tunnels, a day after it launched a military operation to “neutralise” them.

Israel accused Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement of digging across the frontier. It said the tunnels did not function yet but posed “an imminent threat”.

Speaker Nabih Berri, a political ally of the armed group Hezbollah, on Wednesday said Lebanon had asked for the geographic coordinates of the tunnels from Israel, but did not get them.

“This [Israeli accusation] is not based on any real facts all all,” Ali Bazzi, a lawmaker from Berri’s parliamentary bloc, cited the speaker as saying after a meeting with the Lebanese army and United Nations peacekeers.

The UN peacekeeping mission, meanwhile, said it will send a team to Israel to “ascertain facts”, calling for full access to all locations along the border.

‘Expose and thwart’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement he spoke with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday and told him he “viewed with great gravity the blatant violation of Israel’s sovereignty”.

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On Tuesday, the Israeli military launched an operation to “expose and thwart” tunnels into its territory, which it said came from Lebanon.

An Israeli military spokesperson on Tuesday declined to say how many tunnels had been detected or how they would be destroyed, but stressed all activities would take place within Israeli territory.

According to Lebanon’s official NNA news agency, Beirut is preparing to file a complaint with the UN over “repeated Israeli violations”. 

A distraction?

The timing of the military operation was seen by many as an attempt by Netanyahu to divert attention from a corruption case filed against him.

On Sunday, Israeli police recommended that both Netanyahu and his wife be charged for bribery, the third such allegation in recent months.

On Wednesday, Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni accused the prime minister of overplaying the army’s alleged attack tunnel discovery and exploit it for political gain.

Livni, who served as foreign minister during Israel’s 2006 war with Hezbollah, said while she and the rest of the opposition welcomed the discovery, “the incident must be kept in proportion”. 

She also said Netanyahu was partly motivated by a desire to deflect criticism from residents of southern Israel who say he failed to quash the threat of cross-border attacks from Gaza.

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“This was done from two reasons – either the prime minister is himself panicking or he wants to sow panic to justify his actions both in delaying elections and abandoning the residents of southern Israel,” Livni said.

The Lebanese army on Tuesday said it was “fully prepared to face any emergency” and that its side of the border remained calm.

There was no comment from Iran-backed Hezbollah. Israel and Hezbollah have avoided a major conflict across the border since their last war in 2006.

WATCH: The State of Lebanon – People and Power (26:00)

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/12/lebanon-speaker-israel-gave-proof-border-tunnels-181205155316905.html

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