Hamas: UN collaborating with Israel on Gaza siege; Southern Lebanese charge UNIFIL with ‘hidden agenda’

Press TV (Iran)

July 24, 2010

Hamas accuses the United Nations of collaborating with Israel over the world body’s recent efforts to discourage aid convoys from sailing towards the Gaza Strip.

The UN on Friday warned seaborne relief missions against setting sail, urging them to instead travel by land. The UN’s warning came as both routes to the strip remain under the strict control of the Israeli military’s armed surveillance units.

“The UN call to international organizations to use the over-land road to Gaza instead of the sea is unacceptable and illegal,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zahri was quoted by AFP as saying on Saturday.

The position was similar to “collaboration with the Israeli occupier,” he added.

After the democratically-elected government of Hamas came to power in the Gaza Strip in 2006, Israel blockaded the coastal sliver in June 2007, depriving 1.5 million Gazans of food, fuel and other life necessities.

“Most of the residents of the territory are still banned from leaving the territory and this is why this call is considered a contribution to the blockade,” said Abu Zahri in reference to the UN warning.

The developments come after Israeli commandos attacked the Gaza-bound Turkish-flagged Freedom Flotilla relief mission, killing nine Turkish activists on May 31.

The UN ambassador to Tel Aviv, Gabriela Shalev, has informed UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that Israel “reserves its right” to stymie two Lebanese aid ships, which aim to break the Gaza siege.

An organizer for one of the Lebanese vessels, Nagi el-Ali, however, said on Saturday that “preparations for the trip have progressed.” Organizers and port officials also said another ship, the Mariam, has anchored at the northern Lebanese port of Tripoli.

The Hamas official also encouraged humanitarian groups to “continue to reach Gaza by sea until the blockade is really broken.”

The above article can be found at: http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=136101&sectionid=351020202

UN says aid to Gaza should be delivered by land

AFP; July 24, 2010

UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations said Friday that groups seeking to deliver aid to Gaza should do so by land, after Israel warned it would intercept two ships seeking to break a blockade of the Palestinian enclave.

“There are established routes for supplies to enter by land. That is the way aid should be delivered to the people of Gaza,” UN spokesman Martin Nesirky told a press briefing. [Unfortunately, all of the Gaza Strip’s land crossings (six with Israel and one with Egypt) remain subject to draconian Israeli restrictions — 800]

“Our stated preference has been and remains that aid should be delivered by established [i.e., Israel-controlled] routes, particularly at a sensitive time in indirect proximity (peace) talks between Palestinians and Israelis,” he added. [Talks, it should be noted, that have failed to produce a single Israeli concession on any issue whatsoever — 800]

He made the comments after Israel served notice its forces would prevent a planned Lebanese aid flotilla from reaching the Gaza Strip.

“We have received information in recent days about a plan to send a new flotilla to break the blockade around Gaza,” Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Israeli television.

“This is an unnecessary provocation and we believe that preventing such a flotilla is the responsibility of the Lebanese government.”

“If this flotilla does leave Lebanon and refuses to be led by our navy to the (Israeli) port of Ashdod, we will have no other choice than to arrest it at sea,” the minister added.

“There exists a way of transferring goods, which are not weapons or material for war-like purposes, to the Gaza Strip through the port of Ashdod.”

Israel’s UN Ambassador Gabriela Shalev earlier delivered a similar warning in a letter addressed to UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

It was Israel’s latest warning against any attempt to circumvent its naval blockade around the Gaza Strip despite world pressure in the wake of a May 31 Israeli commando raid that killed nine Turkish activists aboard an aid flotilla on a blockade-busting bid.

Israel imposed the blockade in June 2006 after its soldier, Gilad Shalit, was captured by Gaza militants and tightened it a year later when Hamas seized power in the coastal strip. [Actually, Israel imposed the blockade in June 2006 after Hamas won a landslide victory in democratically-held Palestinian legislative elections — 800]

In the wake of the May 31 incident, Israel has significantly eased the blockade [no, it hasn’t], barring only arms and goods that could be used to create weapons or build fortifications, but it has maintained a naval blockade of the Strip.

“There has been progress in increasing the amount of aid [no, there hasn’t], but it’s far from enough and we continue to call for that,” Nesirky said. “We repeatedly said it is vital there should be unfettered access for people and supplies.” [Typical UN: Nesriky calls for “unfettered access for people and supplies” while simultaneously insisting that people and supplies only enter the Gaza Strip via crossings regulated by Israel — 800]

The above article can be found at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jAdN25_kLyw4mSJ_57umHQj-LZwQ

Southern Lebanese charge UNIFIL with ‘hidden agenda’

‘Missing the point’

Al-Ahram Weekly (Egypt); July 15, 2010

In an open letter to the Lebanese people dated 9 July, General Alberto Asarta Cuevas of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) struggled to explain that the UN forces in the country “had no hidden agenda” and that the primary aim of operations in the south was “to ensure that the people of the south feel secure and safe.”

The general’s remarks came on the heels of a number of incidents in villages south of the Litani River between members of UNIFIL, particularly the French contingent, and local people. The latest was on 3 July, when four people were injured in a clash between French soldiers and residents of the southern village of Toulin.

According to various accounts, the clashes broke out when a group of local people asked a French patrol not to take photographs of the area. In order to disperse the crowd, UNIFIL troops fired into the air, a move that infuriated the local people, causing them to attack UNIFIL vehicles, strip the troops of their weapons and free a Lebanese civilian who had been arrested.

When news traveled to neighboring villages, local people also took to the streets in protest and hurled stones at UNIFIL patrols in the vicinity.

The Toulin incident was the latest in a series of similar incidents that have contributed to escalating tensions between local people and UNIFIL forces. The UN forces, deployed in southern Lebanon under UN Security Council Resolution 1701 after the 2006 war, number almost 12,000 soldiers and more than 1,000 civilians.

The Lebanese government headed by Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri expressed its regret over the anti-UNIFIL protests and affirmed its desire to maintain good relations between UNIFIL and local residents in the UN forces’ areas of operations. The government also affirmed UNIFIL’s role in protecting Lebanon’s interests, sovereignty and stability on the basis of Security Council Resolution 1701.

A statement from the Security Council called for the safety and freedom of movement of UN peacekeepers serving in Lebanon to be respected. The Council called “on all parties to ensure that the freedom of movement of UNIFIL remains respected in conformity with its mandate and its rules of engagement,” the statement said.

However, peace only returned to the south of the country thanks to the intervention of the Lebanese army and Hizbullah, with Lebanese army officers and a Hizbullah security official meeting with French UNIFIL officers in Toulin.

A further meeting was held between the head of Hizbullah’s international relations department, Ammar Moussawi, and the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Michael Williams.

Hizbullah said that the two men had agreed to “restore matters in coordination with the Lebanese army command” on the basis of Security Council Resolution 1701. A meeting then took place between General Asarta and the leaders of local councils in the southern Lebanese village of Tibnin last Thursday, at which Lebanese army officers were in attendance.

After the meeting, Asarta said that the meeting had drawn up a “roadmap to work together for mutual trust and cooperation between the Lebanese army and UNIFIL,” adding that the incidents between UNIFIL and the southern residents had been caused by “misunderstandings or mistakes.”

While the dust from the latest round of disturbances now appears to be settling, there are still questions about whether such incidents will be repeated in the future, as well as about what the role of the Lebanese army should be and whether UNIFIL will now work more seriously on confidence-building measures in southern Lebanon.

For some time now, residents of southern Lebanese villages have been complaining about the behaviour of UNIFIL troops, particularly those with the French and Spanish missions.

“UNIFIL troops have taken photographs of houses, shops, fields, people, institutional buildings, and even vehicles,” said one resident in Bint Jbeil. “They have put up tents and installed surveillance cameras. People suspect them of having some hidden agenda other than just peacekeeping.”

In his open letter, Asarta made a point of responding to such suspicions, choosing to address them head on by insisting that “our soldiers have received clear orders not to take pictures unless absolutely necessary for operational reasons.” They also had “clear orders not to use tracked combat vehicles where there is a possibility of damage to public or private infrastructure,” he wrote.

He thanked the Lebanese army for its help in defusing tensions between UNIFIL and local people and in clearing up “misunderstandings between UNIFIL and local communities.”

Nevertheless, it is this coordination between UNIFIL and the Lebanese army that has been missing up to now. One Lebanese army source serving to the south of the Litani River said that several UNIFIL patrols had taken place without the army having been informed, something which UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams appeared to recognize when he cited lack of coordination with the Lebanese army as among the reasons for what he described as “serious incidents.”

Perhaps one of the lessons to be learned from such incidents is that UNIFIL will not be able to carry out its mandate properly if it ignores or sidelines the Lebanese army. Full coordination with the army is an important condition for the success of the mission, and the Lebanese government’s recent decision to deploy a fourth contingent of the army in the south has been viewed with appreciation.

Williams said that Resolution 1701 was governed by two key principles: coordination with the Lebanese army and freedom of movement. However, the second principle could not be implemented in a hostile milieu, he said, and it was not possible without coordination with Hizbullah, the key political force in the south of the country.

While various reports have accused Hizbullah of orchestrating local people’s protests against UNIFIL in the interests of its own agenda or even as a result of the sanctions recently imposed by the UN Security Council on Hizbullah’s supporter Iran, Williams denied any connection.

Following a meeting with Moussawi, Williams was reported by the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar on Monday to have said that the incidents reflected “a crisis of mistrust” between UNIFIL and Hizbullah, but that Syria and Iran had not incited the anti-UNIFIL protests and that Hizbullah had helped ease tensions in the south.

The incidents took place amid Israeli reports claiming that Hizbullah was storing arms in villages in southern Lebanon, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz quoting an Israeli army official to the effect that “a unit of 90 Hizbullah militants [was] operating in Al-Khiyam village and storing weapons close to hospitals and schools.”

The official, Gabi Ashkenazi, said that he expected “tension to rise on Israel’s northern borders in September.”

For its part, Hizbullah described the reports as “fabricated,” saying that they were being used to justify any future Israeli attacks on civilian buildings. Hizbullah MP Walid Sukkaryah added that Israel was not likely to attack Lebanon “because it is aware that it will be defeated.”

The above article can be found at: http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2010/1007/re8.htm


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