BEIRUT – Lebanon’s Parliament speaker said Wednesday that Israel has presented no evidence to prove its claims that a network of attack tunnels has been built by Hezbollah across the countries’ shared borders.
The U.N. peacekeeping mission meanwhile said Wednesday it will send a team to Israel to “ascertain facts,” calling for full access to all locations along the border.
The Israeli military Tuesday launched an open-ended operation to destroy tunnels built by Hezbollah it said are aimed at infiltrating northern Israel.
Israeli forces did not enter Lebanese territory. They were seen operating in what looked like a construction site, with trucks bringing in equipment and drills and bulldozers digging in the open territory and farmlands inside northern Israel. Hezbollah had no immediate comment on the claims or the Israeli activities across the border.
On Wednesday, Nabih Berri, Lebanon’s parliament speaker and ally of Hezbollah, said Israel offered no “coordinates or information” about the tunnels during the regular weekly meeting held at the UN position in southern Lebanon. His comments were carried by the National News Agency.
The U.N. mission, known as UNIFIL, said its regular weekly meeting with the Lebanese and Israeli armies discussed Israel’s “activities” searching for suspected tunnels.
Ali Bazzi, a lawmaker from Berri’s parliamentary bloc, said Israel had no evidence to its claims, calling them a “distraction” and an attempt by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “evade” possible new indictment at home for corruption charges.
There was no immediate comment from Israel on the expected visit.
Under the U.N. resolution that ended the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, Hezbollah is barred from operating in southern Lebanon. Israel has long accused it of violating the resolution. Lebanon says Israel, too, regularly violated its air, sea and land spaces.
“I emphasize the critical role of our liaison and coordination mechanisms in mitigating tensions through continuous communication, at the heart of which is the Tripartite forum,” said head of UNIFIL mission Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col.
He appealed to both sides in using the mechanisms to “avoid misunderstandings and ensure that security and stability” along the border is maintained and reinforced.
The Israeli military said it had protectively increased forces along the border and warned Hezbollah to keep its distance from the tunnels.