UNIFIL in Contact with Army over Hizbullah Armed Appearance near Border
The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) said Friday that contacts were underway with the Lebanese army following media reports about the presence of Hizbullah gunmen during the media tour organized Thursday by Hizbullah along the border with Israel.
"Shortly before the media delegation reached the area yesterday morning, the Lebanese army notified UNIFIL of a media tour along the Blue Line, without mentioning any other detail," UNIFIL said in a statement carried by the National News Agency's English-language website.
"As to reports speaking of the presence of armed individuals among the delegation, UNIFIL reminds that this would be a breach of resolution 1701; and as per the resolution, the Lebanese authorities bear the main responsibility to verify the presence of unauthorized armed individuals in the area between the Blue Line and Litani River," the statement read.
"Following those reports, the UNIFIL is holding contacts with the Lebanese Armed Forces to determine the circumstances of what happened," it concluded.
Hizbullah, which fought a devastating war with Israel in 2006, on Thursday brought dozens of journalists on a rare and highly-choreographed trip to the demarcation line between Lebanon and Israel.
"This tour is to show the defensive measures that the enemy is taking," said Hizbullah spokesman Mohamed Afif, on a hilltop along the so-called Blue Line.
A military commander identified as Haj Ihab, dressed in digital camouflage and sunglasses, said the Israeli army was erecting earth berms up to 10 meters high, as well as reinforcing a military position near the Israeli border town of Hanita.
Thursday's tour sought to paint Israel as afraid of a new conflict, while depicting Hizbullah as ready for war despite having committed thousands of its fighters to bolstering Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.
Journalists were taken from the southern Lebanese town of Naqoura, with Hizbullah fighters in full military regalia stationed along the route alongside the group's yellow flag -- despite a ban by Resolution 1701 on any armed paramilitary presence in southern Lebanon.
Faces smeared with black and green camouflage, the fighters stood silently holding guns and RPG launchers.
"We do not fear war, we don't hesitate to confront it. We yearn for it and we will confront it if it is imposed on us, and God willing we will win," Haj Ihab told the reporters, reciting a famous statement for Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.