Harriet Sherwood misleads on Syrian weapon crisis with distorted reading of Res. 1701

The Guardian has published several articles on suspected military strikes, over the last several days, by the Israeli Air Force, which likely targeted sophisticated weaponry (possibly Russian made SA-17 anti-aircraft missilesreportedly on its way to the Iranian backed terror group, Hezbollah, illegally based in Lebanon.

Israeli officials have been warning for months that the IDF will not allow the transfer of advanced Syrian weapons – including chemical and biological weapons – to terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Nusra Front and Hezbollah.  

Assuming reports of the Israeli strikes are accurate, it may indicate that Assad had decided test Israeli resolve to prevent such arms transfers.

Harriet Sherwood’s latest report on the conflagration in Lebanon, ‘Israeli warplanes violate Lebanese airspace, Feb 1, included these passages:

Israeli warplanes flew over Lebanon again on Friday, two days after air strikes targeted a convoy of arms or a weapons research base inside Syrian territory.

Under UN security council resolution 1701, passed following the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war, Israeli planes are forbidden from flying over Lebanon. [emphasis added]

Sherwood is referring to the UN security council resolution which ended the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

Here are relevant provisions of 1701:

14. Calls upon the government of Lebanon to secure its borders and other entry points to prevent the entry in Lebanon without its consent of arms or related materiel and requests Unifil as authorised in paragraph 11 to assist the government of Lebanon at its request;
15. Decides further that all states shall take the necessary measures to prevent, by their nationals or from their territories or using their flag vessels or aircraft;
a. the sale or supply to any entity or individual in Lebanon of arms and related materiel of all types, including weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment, and spare parts for the aforementioned, whether or not originating in their territories, and;
b. the provision to any entity or individual in Lebanon of any technical training or assistance related to the provision, manufacture, maintenance or use of the items listed in subparagraph (a) above, except that these prohibitions shall not apply to arms, related material, training or assistance authorised by the government of Lebanon or by Unifil as authorised in paragraph 11;

So, by any reading of 1701, arms transfers from Syria to Hezbollah (in Lebanon) are prohibited and, therefore, Israeli efforts to prevent such transfers would arguably be justified, according to at least the spirit of the resolution.

Further, and more relevant to the current crisis, 1701 includes the following, which specifically prohibits the continuing presence and arming of Hezbollah – an illegal militia – in Lebanon, by calling for:

  • security arrangements to prevent the resumption of hostilities, including the establishment between the Blue Line and the Litani river of an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL as authorised in paragraph 11, deployed in this area;
  • Full implementation of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, and of resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006), that require the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, so that, pursuant to the Lebanese cabinet decision of July 27, 2006, there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese state;
  • No foreign forces in Lebanon without the consent of its government;

Yet, it is widely known that Hezbollah has flagrantly violated 1701, as it has continued to maintain and develop a military infrastructure, including sophisticated offensive and defensive weaponry, south of the Litani river, and are believed to possess nearly 1,000 facilities in southern Lebanon, located in up to 270 civilian villages.

Here’s an IDF map illustrating Hezbollah’s ‘illegal occupation’ of Lebanon.

Hezbollah-map-southern-Lebanon

Not only has Hezbollah failed to disarm, but has in fact acquired (from Iran and Syria) an astonishing array of up to 50,000 rockets (4 x the amount they possessed at the end of the 2006 war) which threaten Israel and the entire region – all under the eyes of UN observers (UNIFIL) tasked with preventing the Shiite terror group’s re-arming. 

Interestingly, Sherwood does add, further in her report, that “Western…sources said Israel’s target was a convoy of trucks carrying Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles from Syria to the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon”, but, not surprisingly, fails to note that such a transfer would necessarily violate 1701.

Even if Sherwood is to argue that reported IAF missions over Lebanon technically violate 1701, the absence of any context regarding Hezbollah’s flagrant violation of the letter and spirit of the resolution for over six years represents another classic example of a Guardian omission which serves to grossly distort the political reality of the region.

New map of LAF attack on IDF troops along Israel’s Northern border

Courtesy of Elder of Ziyon:

The blue line is “The” Blue Line. The black line is Israel’s fence on their side of the internationally recognized border. Note the location where the IDF suffered casualties and the site where the brush-clearing work was being performed relative to these lines.

Update from CiF Watch contributor, on the scene at Misgav Am (Northern Israel)

Unlike Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem or Brian Whitaker in London I today abandoned the comfort of my air-conditioner (Israel is currently experiencing a rather vicious heat wave) and travelled to Misgav Am to see the site of yesterday’s fatal cross-border attack for myself and to hear a briefing from the IDF spokesperson and officers who were on the scene.

An officer from the Northern Command gave some interesting background information to the incident. The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) rotates its battalions annually and now has more forces in Southern Lebanon than it did in previous years. The battalions are ethnically mixed and comprise Shi’ite, Sunni and Christian soldiers as well as other minorities. Some of the Shi’ite soldiers may well have family members operating in Hizbollah and whereas it was true to say in years gone by that the LAF’s officers were almost exclusively Christian, this is no longer the case and today Shi’ite commanders are also commonplace. Whilst the LAF commanders can be said to behave in a professional manner, such is not always the case with individual soldiers. The LAF is run entirely from Beirut and what happens on the ground in Southern Lebanon is a direct reflection of policy at the head of the command structure. The brigade responsible for yesterday’s incident was the 11th Brigade of the LAF.

Since the last battalion changeover in the Eastern and Central sections which adjoin the Israeli border three months ago there has been a marked rise in the level of aggressive behavior towards the IDF on the part of the Lebanese soldiers, ranging from verbal threats and offensive hand signs to provocative acts involving RPGs and machine guns. The IDF has repeatedly advised the LAF against such behavior by way of UNIFIL as it was obvious that these LAF soldiers were ‘playing with fire’. Unfortunately, the LAF did not see fit to put an end to these provocations and the message obviously filtered down to the troops on the ground that such actions are acceptable. Whilst it is possible that yesterday’s events were the work of a renegade soldier who started a fire but could not control the flames, the incident did not appear out of the blue and it was most likely pre-planned. The blind eye turned by Beirut despite the warnings from the IDF by way of UNIFIL created a situation in which the Lebanese soldiers have been engaged in provocations for a long time with no reprisals against them and no censure from their commanders, bringing about a situation in which they were ‘psyched up’ for provocation.

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A carefully staged ambush on the Lebanese border

This is a guest post by AKUS

The fighting today (August 3rd) on the Lebanese border may have been deliberately staged by the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) for reasons that are still unclear. Perhaps they wanted to demonstrate to Hezbollah that they are also able to attack Israel inside Israel, perhaps the unit involved is actually a Hezbollah unit in LAF uniforms, or perhaps it has something to do with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s visit to Beirut, or Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ tentative moves towards negotiations. Israel believes it was the work of a Hezbollah-affiliated rogue LAF officer.

According to reports corroborated by UNIFIL, the operation had been coordinated in advance with UNIFIL, which in turn informed the Lebanese army as it always does. This information and the intention of a rogue Lebanese  officer to stage an ambush were apparently passed on to elements in the Lebanese media. Unless they knew, in advance, what was going to happen, there was no other reason for the Lebanese journalist Asaf  Abu Rahal (who worked for the Beirut paper Al  Akhbar, and was killed during the incident) to be in such a remote corner of Lebanon covering routine Israeli operations.  It appears that he was there to put the right spin on events, and to drive the message home he was accompanied by these photographers to create a Lebanese version of events – a Lebanese Pallywood production.

Several of the photographs that have been widely posted were clearly taken before the incident and, apparently, immediately after the firing began. The published photographs follow a clear timeline. Thus it would appear that the photographers in Lebanon affiliated with Associated Press and Reuters who took the pictures were in place before the incident started.

A picture of the UNIFL soldier waving a UN flag was taken by Ronith Daher-AP, and it appears to show the same truck that Israel was using to mount the crane that would lift the tree out of the area – if so, Daher was there before the firing started, and it is apparent that UNIFIL was on the spot to supervise the Israeli operation.


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