UN chief Antonio Guterres warns of risk of a new Israeli-Hezbollah conflict

UN chief warns of risk of a new Israeli-Hezbollah conflict

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned in a new report that unauthorised weapons in the hands of Hezbollah and threatening rhetoric from the Lebanese militant group and Israeli officials “heightens risk of miscalculation and escalation into conflict.”

The UN chief called on Hezbollah and Israel, who fought a war in 2006, “to exercise restraint at all times” and “refrain from potentially inflammatory comments”. Guterres said in the report to the UN Security Council circulated today that allegations of arms transfers to Hezbollah continue “on a regular basis,” which the UN takes seriously. But it “is not in a position to substantiate them independently, he said. Guterres noted, however, that Hezbollah has displayed the weapons and acknowledged using them.

The UN resolution that ended the 2006 war calls for Hezbollah and all other militias operating in Lebanon to be disarmed and demobilized. It also calls for the 10,700-strong UN peacekeeping force known as UNIFIL to monitor a zone south of the Litani River near Israel’s border where Hezbollah is banned from keeping weapons.

Guterres said Israel informed UNIFIL of the alleged presence of Hezbollah weapons and infrastructure in three specific locations in that zone, which the U.N. force closely monitored, including by aerial reconnaissance, satellite imagery and patrols. But he said “no evidence to confirm the allegations was established.”

Guterres cited examples of heightened rhetoric between Hezbollah’s leaders and senior Israeli officials and said that despite “relative calm” along the UN-drawn Blue Line between Israel and Lebanon the level of tensions between the two countries remains high. Rhetoric on both sides, he said, has “resulted in increased anxiety, including among the local population.” Guterres said he was equally concerned about continued Israeli overflights of Lebanese territory.