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Israel’s violations of Resolution 1701

By David Morrison

30 August 2007

On 24 August 2007, the UN Security Council passed resolution 1773 [1] extending the mandate of the UN force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) for another year until 31 August 2008. Its present mandate was established by resolution 1701 [2], the resolution that led to a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah on 14 August 2006 after 34 days of warfare.

Famously, in paragraph 1, resolution 1701 called for “a full cessation of hostilities” but then went on to say that the “full” didn’t apply to Israel, which was merely required to cease “all offensive military operations” immediately. By contrast, Hezbollah was required to cease “all attacks” immediately. Paragraph 2 required Israel “to withdraw all of its forces from southern Lebanon”. (See my article Resolution 1701: Diplomatic cover for a climb-down [3]).

Hezbollah did cease “all attacks” on 14 August 2006, as required by resolution 1701, and hasn’t mounted any attacks against Israel since. A few rockets were fired at Kiryat Shemona in Israel on 17 June 2007, but Hezbollah wasn’t responsible. Neither was it responsible for the attack on UNIFIL troops on 24 June 2007, which killed six soldiers (3 Spanish and 3 Colombian).

Israel has more or less observed the ceasefire – there were a few breaches early on and one or two since, but there has been less firing across the border than before the war. However, Israel continues to violate Lebanese sovereignty on a daily basis by land, sea and air.

Israel withdraws

Israel has almost entirely withdrawn from southern Lebanon, leaving aside the question of Shebaa Farms (see below). But, as the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, pointed out in the fourth report to the Security Council from on the implementation of 1701 dated 28 June 2007 (paragraph 19):

“The Israel Defense Forces remain in control of the northern part of Ghajar village, north of the Blue Line inside Lebanese territory, although they do not maintain a permanent military presence. … It should be recalled that, as long as the Israel Defense Forces remains in northern Ghajar, Israel will have yet to complete its withdrawal from southern Lebanon in accordance with its obligations under resolution 1701 (2006).” [4]

(The Secretary-General’s earlier reports to the Security Council were on 18 August 2006 [5], 12 September 2006 [6] and 14 March 2007 [7]).

Israeli violations

In addition, Israel has never ceased violating Lebanese sovereignty by overflights, contrary to Article 2(4) of the UN Charter and countless Security Council resolutions, including 1701.

British Foreign Office Minister, Kim Howells, presented data compiled by UNIFIL on these overflights for January to April 2007 to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee at its request. According to this data, published in its report Global Security: The Middle East on 25 July 2007 [8], there were 45 overflights in January, 47 in February, 67 in March and 113 in April. And Michael Williams, then the UN Secretary-General’s Middle East envoy (now Prime Minister Brown’s), told a press briefing on 25 July 2007 that there were 271 overflights in June (see USA Today report [9]).

According to the UN Secretary-General, in his report to the Security Council on 28 June 2007 (paragraph 16):

“UNIFIL has reported a significant increase in Israeli air violations, through jet and unmanned aerial vehicle overflights of Lebanese territory. These violations occur on an almost daily basis, frequently numbering between 15 and 20 overflights, and even reaching 32, in a single day.” [4]

However, the Secretary-General’s reports are strangely reticent about the full extent of Israel’s violations of Lebanese sovereignty, which are obviously recorded by UNIFIL. These are not reproduced in any of his reports. However, an article in Ali Atwi of Al Akhbar, a pro-opposition Lebanese newspaper, on 22 August 2007 gave the following figures:

“The statements issued by the Lebanese army show that the number of Israeli land, sea, and aerial violations of Lebanese borders from 15/8/2006 and until 30/6/2007 reached 939 violations distributed as follows: 737 aerial violations, 58 sea violations, and 146 land violations.” (translated by [10])

I cannot swear for the accuracy of those numbers, but 737 aerial violations is not out of line with the numbers quoted above from official sources, which total 543 for January to April and June 2007.

The Secretary-General went so far as to say that “Israeli overflights … constitute repeated violations” of 1701 and other Security Council resolutions”. However, he did quote Israel’s excuse that they are “a necessary security measure”. He was not so rude as to point out that there is no excuse in the UN Charter or in resolution 1701 for Israel violating the sovereignty of Lebanon or any other neighbouring state.

Surprisingly, the Security Council applied a mild slap on the wrist to Israel for its overflights in a statement by the President of the Council approved unanimously by the Council on 3 August 2007. In the statement, the Council expressed

“deep concern at the increase in Israeli violations of Lebanese air space and appeals to all parties concerned to respect the cessation of hostilities and the Blue Line in its entirety.” [11]

The US voted for this Presidential statement, which is strange since it normally uses its veto power to prevent the Council applying the merest smidgen of criticism to Israel. Doubly strange, since the US could stop Israel engaging in these overflights if it wished to do so.

Cluster munitions

Resolution 1701 (paragraph 8) requested that Israel hand over to the UN “remaining maps of landmines in Lebanon in Israel’s possession” [2]. Here, the resolution was referring to munitions left by Israel on its previous visits to Lebanon prior to its withdrawal in 2000. Israel did eventually hand over some relevant maps – the Secretary-General’s third report of 14 March 2007 (paragraph 39) acknowledges “receipt of Israeli maps of mines laid until the withdrawal of the Israeli Defense Force from southern Lebanon in 2000” [7] but whether the maps were comprehensive is another matter.

The much greater problem is the unexploded Israeli ordinance from the 2006 war, in particular, the vast amount of cluster bombs deposited by Israel in south Lebanon in the last few days of the war. This action was carried out with the malicious intention of killing and maiming people returning to their homes after the war, and render large areas of land in southern Lebanon uncultivable. In that respect, it has been successful: the Secretary-General’s fourth report of 28 June 2007 states (paragraph 44):

“While there has been a decrease in the number of casualty figures in recent months, there have been 22 additional incidents among civilians since my previous report [in March 2007], with one person killed and 21 injured. Since the cessation of hostilities came into effect, a total of 203 civilians have been injured (180) or killed (23) as a result of cluster munitions.” [4]

How many cluster bombs were dropped on Lebanese soil? Only Israel knows that, but it refuses to say how many or where, despite many requests from the UN – understandably so, since it wants to have as many Lebanese civilians as possible killed or maimed. The Secretary-General’s fourth report of 28 June 2007 states (paragraph 44):

“I regret to have to report that, despite a number of attempts by United Nations senior officials to obtain information regarding the firing data of cluster munitions utilized during the conflict in the second quarter of 2006, Israel has yet to provide that critical data. I call on the Government of Israel once again to provide the information to the United Nations.” [4]

This prompted another mild slap on the wrist from the Security Council in its Presidential statement of 3 August 2007, in which the Council expressed more deep concern, this time

“at the presence of unexploded ordnance in south Lebanon and renews its support for the Secretary-General’s request to Israel to provide to the United Nations detailed data on its use of cluster munitions in southern Lebanon.” [11]

Kim Howells told the Foreign Affairs Select Committee in written evidence (see its report Global Security: The Middle East [8], Ev 125):

“We have no clear figures for the number of cluster munitions Israel dropped on Lebanon. However, drawing on Israeli media reports, UNMACC [UN Mine Action Coordination Centre] estimate that Israel dropped in the region of 4 million cluster bombs on Lebanon during last year’s conflict from artillery projectiles. This does not take into account cluster bombs dropped via aerial delivery.”

How many of these failed to explode? According to Chris Clark of UNMACC, the estimated of the failure rate of so-called “dumb” cluster bombs is “moving towards 30%” and of “smart” M85 cluster bombs is “5-10%” (see Global Security: The Middle East [8], Ev 123). Most of those used were of the “dumb” variety, and the UN estimates that 1 million unexploded devices have to be dealt with.

The Secretary-General reported on 28 June 2007 (paragraphs 42 & 43):

“42. In southern Lebanon, clean-up of the estimated 1 million unexploded cluster munitions continues. Since my previous report to the Security Council, an additional 50 new cluster bomblet strike locations have been identified by the United Nations Mine Action Coordination Centre-South Lebanon. As of 31 May 2007, 904 cluster bomblet strike locations have been recorded, contaminating an area of up to 36.6 million square metres.

“43. As a result of the joint efforts of the Lebanese Armed Forces, 22 UNIFIL teams and 75 United Nations contracted and bilaterally funded clearance teams operating under the coordination of the United Nations Mine Action Coordination Centre-South Lebanon, 28 per cent of the surface and 15 per cent of the subsurface of the 36.6 million square metres have been cleared, and 117,872 of an estimated 1 million unexploded cluster munitions have been neutralized.” [4]

It will take many years to finish the job.

What UNIFIL does

Resolution 1701 provided that UNIFIL be increased from its previous 2,000 troops to a maximum 15,000. It now has over 13,500 personnel from 30 countries, including 2,500 Italian, 2,000 French and about 1,000 German naval personnel. The latter form part of the remarkably large UNIFIL Maritime Task Force, which is supposed to assist in stopping arms being smuggled into Lebanon by sea. Germany is supplying 8 ships to the 19 ship Task Force [12].

Reading the Secretary-Generals reports, it is difficult to see what extra functions are being performed by UNIFIL today to justify its greatly enhanced numbers. Its area of operation is between the Litani river and the border with Israel. There, in co-operation with the Lebanese Army, it was supposed to establish a buffer zone “free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL” (to quote paragraph 8 of resolution 1701). This was, of course, aimed at curtailing Hezbollah military operations in this area next to Israel, but it was never expected that UNIFIL (or the Lebanese Army) would make a serious attempt to disarm Hezbollah in this area, let alone in Lebanon as a whole.

The Secretary-General reported on 28 June 2007 that “UNIFIL carries out more than 400 patrols per day throughout its area of operations, night surveillance on suspected activities by armed elements and operations in open areas” ([4], paragraph 22). What has been found?

“Coordinated operations undertaken by the Lebanese Armed Forces and UNIFIL during the period under review [from March 2007] have led to the discovery of abandoned arms, ammunition, explosive devices, bunkers and related infrastructure. The most significant discoveries were an ammunition dump and 17 rockets in the vicinity of El Fardeis, a cave with 100 mortar bombs in the vicinity of Mazraat Islamiye, two rocket launchers in Rchaf, a cave containing mines, mortars and detonators in the Kafr Shouba area and a weapons and ammunitions cache containing an anti-tank recoilless gun with two rocket launchers and ammunition in the same general area. The Lebanese Armed Forces destroy or confiscate all arms and ammunition found south of the Litani River.” (ibid, paragraph 23)


“With the exception of two very disturbing incidents, which occurred at the end of the reporting period, namely, the 17 June rocket attack on Kiryat Shemona and the 24 June attack on UNIFIL, UNIFIL has neither discovered, nor received reports of, armed elements inside its area of operations, other than those within Palestinian refugee camps and local hunters. At the same time, the Lebanese Armed Forces and UNIFIL have not detected any illegal transfers of arms south of the Litani River.” (ibid, paragraph 24)

(Palestinian militias are permitted to operate freely inside Palestinian refugee camps, but they are not supposed to operate outside the camps).

As for the UNIFIL Maritime Task Force, since March 2007 it

“has hailed more than 3,000 ships. The identities of all vessels were checked and confirmed, and 25 suspicious vessels were inspected by Lebanese naval and customs officials on arrival in port. No attempts to smuggle weapons were reported.” (ibid, paragraph 26)

It is difficult to see the point of this. On what basis is a ship deemed “suspicious”? Why do you need to “hail” ships on the high seas to deem them “suspicious”? Why can’t “Lebanese naval and customs officials” deem them “suspicious” and inspect them “on arrival in port”?

(It is worth noting that paragraph 14 of 1701 authorises UNIFIL to assist the Lebanese Government, at its request, “to secure its borders and other entry points to prevent the entry in Lebanon without its consent of arms or related materiel” [2], but the Lebanese Government has not requested UNIFIL to help it secure its border with Syria.)

The UN makes no complaint about Hezbollah interfering with the operations of UNIFIL (and relations with the civilian population in southern Lebanon, where support for Hezbollah is strong, have been generally good). However, the Secretary-General has the following to say about Israeli interference:

“I regret to report that there have been several occasions during the reporting period when actions by Israel Defense Forces personnel have endangered their own security and that of United Nations personnel. In an incident on 30 April, a fast patrol boat of the Israel Defense Forces approached a UNIFIL Maritime Task Force frigate at high speed and on a collision with the frigate and did not respond to the frigate’s radio communication. The frigate was only able to avoid collision [course] by rapidly and significantly reducing speed. On two other occasions, Israeli aircraft flew at low altitude over Maritime Task Force frigates in contravention of established procedures.” (ibid, paragraph 27)

Hezbollah rearming?

There is little doubt that Hezbollah has been rearming since the end of the war, and that the arms are coming across the Syria border into Lebanon. This is, of course, in conflict with the provisions of resolution 1701, specifically paragraph 8, which, like resolution 1559 [13] passed two years earlier, calls for

“the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, so that … there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese State”

and for

“no sales or supply of arms and related materiel to Lebanon except as authorized by its Government.” [2]

(These and many other elements of these resolutions constitute interference in the internal affairs of Lebanon, contrary to Article 2.7 of the UN Charter).

However, since Israel, the serial aggressor which has invaded Lebanon half a dozen times in a generation, has also been rearming with help from the US, it is only fair that the only force capable of effective resistance to that aggression be allowed to rearm. It would be a different matter if Lebanon, and in particular the Shiites of south Lebanon, could rely on the Security Council to prevent future Israeli aggressions, but bitter experience has proved otherwise.

The Security Council is supposed to be concerned with punishing aggressor states so that they don’t re-offend. But Israel has always escaped punishment by the Security Council, in recent times because the US has wielded a veto on the Council on its behalf. While that situation continues, it is unfair, and unrealistic, to expect the victims of Israel’s aggression to leave themselves defenceless.

Shebaa farms

The Shebaa farms area is a small sliver of land occupied by Israel. It borders on the Golan Heights, which is Syrian territory occupied by Israel in 1967 and later annexed. Lebanon has consistently claimed that the Shebaa farms area is Lebanese territory and that Israel’s continued occupation of it means that Israel still hasn’t fully withdrawn from Lebanon.

Israel insists that the Shebaa farms area is Syrian territory, and the Security Council endorsed this view in June 2000 [14], when it accepted that Israel had fully withdraw from Lebanon, as required by resolution 425 passed 22 years earlier when Israel first invaded Lebanon. The Security Council did so in the full knowledge that Syria agreed with Lebanon that the Shebaa farms area is Lebanese territory.

Resolution 1701 (paragraph 10) re-opened the question of the Lebanese claim to Shebaa farms, asking the UN Secretary-General to make proposals

“for delineation of the international borders of Lebanon, especially in those areas where the border is disputed or uncertain, including by dealing with the Shebaa farms area” [2]

In fulfillment of this, in December 2006 the Secretary-General appointed a cartographer to examine the matter and on 28 June 2007 he reported to the Security Council that the cartographer’s findings are being discussed with the relevant parties, including Israel. There have been persistent reports in the Israeli press that his findings are that the Shebaa farms area is Lebanese territory. For example, Haaretz reported on 11 July 2007:

“The United Nations has transmitted messages to Israel in recent weeks that the organization’s mapping experts have determined that the controversial Shaba Farms … near the Lebanese border, now controlled by Israel, is Lebanese territory. … Therefore, the UN has said there is no reason for Israel not to relinquish control over the area.” [15]

If this is true, it will be a significant reverse for Israel – and it will be interesting to see if the US forces Israel to relinquish control of the area and hand it over to Lebanon.


Resolution 1701 doesn’t specifically call for the release of the two Israeli soldiers, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, captured by Hezbollah on 12 July 2006. But the resolution’s preamble does emphasise “the need to address urgently … the unconditional release of the abducted Israeli soldiers” and, separately, encourages “the efforts aimed at urgently settling the issue of the Lebanese prisoners detained in Israel” [2].

Hezbollah captured the two Israeli soldiers in the first place with a view to exchanging them for the remaining Lebanese citizens in Israeli jails from prior to the Israeli withdrawal in 2000. Such exchanges had taken place at least three times in the past, in July 1996, in June 1998, and the largest in January 2004 (see, for example, Electronic Intifada article History of Israeli-Arab Prisoner Exchanges [16]).

In the course of the 2006 war, Israel took other Lebanese citizens into custody. Or should I have said abducted or kidnapped or took hostage, the language which is always used to describe actions of this kind by Hezbollah? It is noticeable that in his reports the Secretary- General persistently refers to the Israeli soldiers as having been “abducted” by Hezbollah, whereas Israel merely “captures” Lebanese civilians. Be that as it may, some at least of these “captured” civilians were still in Israeli custody in March 2007, when the Secretary-General reported to the Security Council that

“the Lebanese citizens captured by the Israeli Defense Force during the 2006 conflict have all been visited by the International Committee of the Red Cross and have been able to write letters to their families.” [7]

As far as I know, they still are in Israeli custody, and they are civilians without any paramilitary connections.

Since the end of the war in August 2006, the UN has been trying to broker a prisoner exchange deal, but as yet without success.

David Morrison
Labour & Trade Union Review
30 August 2007




















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