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UNIFIL Sees Blue Line Issues As Critical

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Aug. 19 (UPI) — The situation along the so-called Blue Line separating Israel and Lebanon is one of the critical issues facing both countries, a peacekeeping commander said.

The U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon gave the all-clear after a “brief exchange” of gunfire Aug. 1 between Israeli and Lebanese forces along the Blue Line.

Spanish Maj. Gen. Alberto Asarta Cuevas, the UNIFIL commander, in a statement said the Aug. 1 skirmish “once again underscored the extreme sensitivity of the Blue Line and the important role our liaison and coordination arrangement with the parties plays in preventing escalation.”

Both sides, he stressed, were committed to using UNIFIL as the forum to coordinate border issues. Israel was cleared of accusations it crossed into Lebanese territory last year but was condemned for its practice of conducting surveillance flights over Lebanon in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Israel said it’s justified to patrol the northern border with Lebanon given its concerns about Hezbollah’s weapons.

Hezbollah members were named by a tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The Shiite movement, however, brushed off a recent indictment by saying Israeli activity in the Lebanese telecommunications sector put the tribunal’s evidence in doubt.

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