July 1, 2005

UN Council concerned at Israeli-Hizbollah clash

By Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Councilexpressed serious concern on Thursday at the flare-up offighting between Hizbollah guerrillas and Israel in a disputedSyria-Lebanese border zone.

The 15-member body called on Lebanon to extend control overthe entire country by deploying its army in all areas and "toput an end to all attacks emanating from its territory."

The Security Council last September demanded foreign forceswithdraw from Lebanon and militia, like Hizbollah, be disarmed."In this context, they expressed serious concerns at(Wednesday's) attack," the council said in a press statement.

On Thursday, Israeli helicopters struck at Hizbollah a dayafter the guerrillas killed an Israeli officer in the worstborder violence in six months. Israeli aircraft fired missilesat Hizbollah positions and later raked hillsides withmachine-gun fire inside south Lebanon, witnesses said.

Anne Patterson, the acting U.S. ambassador, criticized thestatement for not specifically mentioning the Septemberresolution 1559 and for not saying that Hizbollah started theconflict.

Other members said the council statements had not blamedIsrael in previous incidents when it fired the first shot.

"This was a difficult negotiation," Patterson said. "Thestatement was weaker than we would have liked."

"It did not recognize the fault of Hizbollah in attacking,"she said. "The Lebanese armed forces need to deploy intosouthern Lebanon as quickly as possible and take control oftheir own territory."

Hizbollah was instrumental in ending Israel's 22-yearoccupation of southern Lebanon in 2000. The two foes haveclashed sporadically in the Shebaa Farms area since then.

Lebanon and Syria say Shebaa Farms is Lebanese territory,but U.N. cartographers who surveyed the border after theIsraeli withdrawal determined it was part of the Syrian GolanHeights that Israel has occupied since the 1967 Arab-Israeliwar.

The United Nations has said the two nations were free todemarcate their own border, which they have not done.

The United States called for a U.N. briefing on the clashafter Israel's U.N. Ambassador Dan Gillerman filed a protestwith the Security Council and Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Gillerman told reporters, "The message from the securitycouncil today was a very strong one.

"This is an act of terrorism taken across the border ... bya militia that is active within a sovereign country," he said.