The UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon who are currently manning a fragile ceasefire between Lebanon and Israel Tuesday denied allegations by the Israeli authorities that they are covering up for Hezbollah's re-arming activities, the dpa reported.The allegations were published in Israel's Haaretz newspaper.
"The allegations made in the daily that UNIFIL was 'intentionally concealing information', 'presenting half truths', 'misleading the (UN) Security Council', or 'whitewashing' information about Hezbollah activities, are without any basis," the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon said in a statement.
UNIFIL insisted that "in the event of any incident ... UNIFIL follows standard procedures that includes immediate action necessary to address the situation on the group."
"UNIFIL also immediately informs the Security Council about all developments on the ground," it said.
According to Israeli reports in the last six months there have been at least four cases in which UNIFIL soldiers identified armed Hezbollah operatives, but did nothing and did not submit full reports on the incidents to the U.N. Security Council.
A senior government source in Jerusalem accused some factions in the UN of misleading the Security Council and "whitewashing" everything having to do with the strengthening of Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.
The criticism intensified after UNIFIL confirmed last week an Israeli report that unidentified gunmen had intercepted one of its patrols, but said the Israeli reports were exaggerated.
A well-informed Lebanese security source said in fact that the opposite of Israel's charges was true, saying that Israel was carrying out a campaign against the UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon and its Italian commander Claudio Graziano.
The source who requested anonymity told Deutsche Presse Agentur, dpa that the Israelis were targetting Graziano who "maintains close coordination with all Lebanese factions especially the Lebanese army in the area."
"Graziano has on several occasions angered the Israelis with his complaints regarding the daily Israeli air violations of the Lebanese airspace," the source said.
He added that the same attacks took place with Graziano's predecessor French Major General Alain Pellegrini who headed in August 2006 the enhanced 13,000-member-strong United Nations peacekeeping mission in Lebanon overseeing the cessation of hostilities agreement that ended 33-days war between Israel and Hezbollah.
"The French at the time were angered by the daily Israeli violations of the Lebanese airspace and threatened to shoot at the Israeli planes," the source said.
"This prompted the Israeli authorities to attack the UNIFIL then, using the same accusations," the source said.
Israeli planes daily violate the Lebanese airspace, the Lebanese Army says. On Monday, the military said 12 Israeli warplanes flew over the country and carried out reconnaissance missions over the capital Beirut.
The United Nations have said such over-flights undermine UNIFIL's credibility and compromise efforts to stabilize the region.
Israeli military officials have said the over-flights were necessary to monitor what they called "continuing arms smuggling by Hezbollah."
According to UN Security Council Resolution 1701, Hezbollah is not allowed to enter the area in which the weapons were reportedly found.