Lebanon Army Chief: We Must Be Wary of Israel's Military Schemes

In address marking Lebanon's 67th anniversary, LAF chief Kahwaji urges troops to exert maximum effort to reassure security and stability in the country.

Lebanese soldiers should keep a watchful eye on the movements and "schemes" Israeli army, the commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces told troops on Thursday, adding that political disputes should be resolved through political means not through the use of force.

A Lebanese soldier holding his rifle as Israeli troops patrol the border fence in the southern Leban

Comments by LAF chief Jean Kahwaji came a day after a senior Israeli official told Haaretz that Israel would ask the United Nations to announce that once the Israel Defense Forces withdraws from the northern section of Ghajar, it will no longer be in violation of the international border with Lebanon.

Israel is seeking the UN's official recognition to prevent Lebanese factions from raising further territorial demands, such as the future of the Shaba Farms area on Mount Dov.

Earlier Friday, Al Jazeera reported that Lebanon's parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri indicated that Israel's withdrawal the disputed border village will do little to assuage "resistance" against the country.

Speaking to troops to mark Lebanon's 67th Independence Day, Kahwaji urged the soldiers "to stay on the lookout for the Israeli enemy, which still occupies a part of our precious land, and to strengthen the cooperation with international forces in order to preserve stability in the south, and watch out for the schemes of our enemy."

"I also urge you to exert the maximum possible effort to reassure the citizens about their security and stability in the country,” the LAF chief added.

Speaking, however, of the primacy of diplomacy over military conflict, Kahwaji was quoted by Lebanese website Ya Libnan as saying that "political disputes should be resolved through political means, ” adding that "no matter how great the sacrifices the army may make, they will be much less than the price the entire country would pay should it slide into strife."

On Wednesday, the cabinet ordered the Foreign Ministry and the IDF to begin negotiations with UNIFIL commander Alberto Asarta, giving the parties 30 days to reach an understanding on how and when the withdrawal will be carried out, the security arrangements at the border and the international recognition of the move. The agreement with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon will then be brought before the cabinet for approval.

Although the retreat will not be coordinated in any way with Lebanon, Prime Minister Saad Hariri's government is not opposed to the arrangement and sees the retreat as an achievement it can showcase to the Lebanese public.

"The Lebanese government will be able to show that an Israeli retreat can be brought about by diplomatic means, and not only through military confrontation," a Foreign Ministry source told Haaretz. "This move benefits all parties involved."

IDF officers told the cabinet that security arrangements can be made to prevent Hezbollah militants from infiltrating the border village.

The security situation after the withdrawal is expected to be better than before the 2006 Second Lebanon War, as Ghajar will be defended from the north by a large UNIFIL force - equipped with watchtowers, lighting and a ground barrier that would make infiltration very difficult.