UN Chief Warns Israel-Lebanon Tension Could Lead to New Conflict

Ban accuses countries of violating UN cease-fire resolution after Second Lebanon War in 2006, slams Hezbollah for maintaining military capacity.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned Friday that increasing tensions between Lebanon and Israel could lead to a new conflict with potentially devastating consequences.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

In a report to the UN Security Council, Ban accused the neighboring countries of violating the 2006 cease-fire resolution that ended the Second Lebanon war and added that the Hezbollah continues to maintain "a substantial military capacity" in violation of UN resolutions and an arms embargo.

The UN chief also criticized Israel for continuing to violate the cease-fire by conducting daily over flights of Lebanon and refusing to withdraw from the disputed northern border village of Ghajar.

Ban noted that UN peacekeepers have had tense confrontations with Lebanese civilians, which Western diplomats see as a growing concern.

Ban's latest report to the UN Security Council says blue helmet peacekeepers in southern Lebanon, known as UNIFIL, have run into difficulties with civilians on a number of occasions in recent months.

Some Western diplomats say Hezbollah militants encourage and participate in such confrontations between civilians and UNIFIL. Ban's report did not confirm that allegation but said there is reason for "doubt on the motives of those (civilians) involved" in some incidents.

The most serious confrontation, it said, was on March 4 when civilians blocked the route of a UNIFIL patrol and the Lebanese army as they were jointly investigating the firing of automatic weapons in the village of As-Suwwanan.

"While carrying out a foot patrol in the village, three UNIFIL personnel were slightly injured and two UNIFIL vehicles were damaged during a scuffle with civilians who stopped the patrol," Ban's report said.

Several council diplomats said on condition of anonymity that there have been a number of incidents more recently in which stones were hurled at UNIFIL peacekeepers. They said some countries on the 15-nation Security Council were urging Lebanon to deploy more troops south of the Litani River.

Israel has criticized UNIFIL for not stopping weapons it says are flowing to Hezbollah guerrillas. The United Nations says that is the responsibility of the Lebanese authorities.

Ban said Israel's allegations that Hezbollah had received Scud missiles from Syria had "resulted in increased tension" in the region. Syria has denied the allegation.

"Such tension once again illustrated the importance of control by Lebanon over its borders and of the respect by all member states for the prohibition against transferring arms" in violation of resolution 1701, Ban said in his report.

The report said the United Nations was not able to verify whether or not the Scud allegations are true.

Ban said he not received evidence proving the unauthorized transfer of weapons into southern Lebanon, even though Israel "maintains that the Hezbollah is continuing to build up its military presence and capacity, including inside UNIFIL area of operations."

"Israel Defense Forces aircraft, mostly unmanned aerial vehicles but also increasing number of fighter jets, continued almost daily intrusions into Lebanese airspace," Ban said. "The overflights constitute violations of resolution 1701."