While the UN is still trying to sort out who’s going to join Lebanese forces in patrolling the Israeli border, Lebanon is threatening to pull out of the cease-fire agreement in light of Israel’s raid on Hezbollah targets on Saturday:
An Israeli commando raid of a Hizbullah stronghold deep in Lebanon prompted the Lebanese government to threaten to halt further troop deployments to protest what U.N. officials called a violation of the six-day-old cease-fire.
Israel said Saturday’s raid was launched to stop arms smuggling from Iran and Syria to Hizbullah. An Israeli officer was killed during the raid, and two soldiers were wounded, one seriously.
There were no signs of further clashes, but the flare-up underlined worries about the fragility of the cease-fire as the U.N. pleaded for nations to send troops to an international force in southern Lebanon that is to separate Israeli and Hizbullah fighters.
The office of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued a statement later Saturday labeling the operation a violation of the U.N. truce.
A contingent of 49 French soldiers landed in the south Saturday, providing the first reinforcements for the 2,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission known as UNIFIL that has been stationed in the region for years. About 200 more were expected next week.
They were the first additions to what is intended to grow into a 15,000-soldier U.N. force to police the truce with an equal number of Lebanese soldiers. France leads UNIFIL and already had 200 soldiers in Lebanon before the reinforcements.
But with Europe moving slowly to provide more troops, Israel warned it would continue to act on its own to enforce an arms embargo on the group until the Lebanese army and an expanded U.N. peacekeeping force are in place.
Meanwhile, Israeli Environmental Minister Gideon Ezra told public radio Sunday Israel will continue to carry out raids in Lebanon aimed at halting alleged weapons smuggling to Hizbullah from Syria.
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