Lebanese Army Describes Israeli Reports on 'Border Tunnels' as 'Allegations'
The Lebanese Army has described as "allegations" Israel's announcement that Hizbullah has dug "attack tunnels" on Lebanon's border.
It called on Israel to present specific coordinates and information about the location of such tunnels.
The army also called on Israel not to carry out any work inside Lebanese territory.
The Israeli army has released photographs, video footage and an illustrative map of what it says is the first of several tunnels snaking into Israeli territory that it soon plans to destroy.
The U.N. peacekeeping mission in south Lebanon, known as UNIFIL, said its regular weekly meeting with the Lebanese and Israeli armies discussed Israel's "activities" searching for suspected tunnels. The Israeli army said it used the meeting to express its objection to "the severe violation of Israeli sovereignty."
The UNIFIL force commander, Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col, encouraged both sides to reduce "the high level of rhetoric," avoid misunderstandings, and ensure that security and stability along the U.N.-drawn Blue Line "is maintained and reinforced," U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in New York.
He added that U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' "principle is that the building of tunnels from one country to another for military purposes is wholly unacceptable."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, said he spoke with Guterres by phone Wednesday, telling him that he expects the U.N. to condemn the violation of Israeli sovereignty. Netanyahu also said he hopes the international community imposes increased sanctions on Hizbullah in response to Israel's exposure of the tunnels.
Under the U.N. resolution that ended the 2006 war between Israel and Hizbullah, Hizbullah is barred from operating near Lebanon's border with Israel. Israel has long accused it of violating the resolution. Lebanon says Israel, too, regularly violates 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 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 operation is expected to last for weeks, or even months. The Israeli military said it had protectively increased forces along the border and warned Hizbullah to keep its distance from the tunnels.