Gaza war heightens tensions along Blue Line: Ban
United Nations (PTI): The recent hostilities in Gaza have posed the most serious challenge since the adoption of a resolution which helped end the war between Israel and Hizbollah in the summer of 2006, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said in a new report.
Rockets fired into Israel from south Lebanon and return fire led to heightened tensions along the so-called Blue Line that separates Israeli and Lebanese sides and "endangered the cessation of hostilities agreement," Ban wrote in his latest report to the Security Council.
"The firing of rockets from southern Lebanon towards Israel, which I condemn in all instances, constituted a serious violation" of the resolution, he said.
The attacks were launched from sites close to populated areas, including a school in session at the time, "putting innocent civilians at risk", he added.
The Secretary-General said "the fact that the Israel Defence Forces returned fire with artillery shells into Lebanese territory on January 8 and 14 without providing prior warning to the UN Interim Force in Lebanon is also a cause for serious concern" as these acts endangered civilians as well as peacekeepers and soldiers of the Lebanese Armed Forces.
"At the same time, I was encouraged by the measures that were taken by all parties to avoid an escalation," he wrote with the resolution's mechanisms having served as an "effective deterrent and prevented an escalation of the situation in southern Lebanon".
But he cautioned that these incidents "also highlight the precarious nature of the current cessation of hostilities and the necessity for both parties to take further steps to address a number of unresolved issues," including disarming militant groups.
Ban said he is pleased that the parties had made strides to visibly mark the Blue Line, encouraging Lebanon and Israel to stay the course and build on existing momentum to curb inadvertent violations and boost confidence.
He reiterated his call on Israel to immediately end all over-flights of Lebanese territory which violate Lebanon's sovereignty and resolution 1701.
The report also called on all Lebanese leaders to exercise restraint ahead of the June 7 parliamentary elections, which "will bring added challenges that may test the country's frail domestic stability".