BEIRUT — Yet another incident has disturbed the fragile calm along the Blue Line, the "withdrawal line" drawn by the United Nations in June 2000, on the border between Lebanon and Israel.
On Wednesday, Israel claimed that Hezbollah had set up at least one military tent on its territory. The Israeli army said it intended to deal with the matter "through diplomatic channels.''
However, it threatened to use force if the tent was not removed quickly. According to the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), the tent in question is located in a "disputed border area." The location is close to where a Lebanese farmer defended his land against an Israeli army bulldozer in early June in Kfar Shuba (Hasbaya governorate). On June 9, Israeli soldiers fired tear gas at Lebanese demonstrators in the same region during a demonstration in solidarity with the farmer.
Does the increase in clashes at Kfar Shuba threaten the security of the Lebanese border? What is the current situation along the Blue Line? Retired general and military strategist Elias Hanna deciphers the situation for L'Orient-Le Jour.
What is at stake in setting up a tent near the Blue Line at Kfar Shuba? Does this kind of action have any military significance for Hezbollah?
The village of Kfar Shuba is not located on the line of attack usually used by Hezbollah. Setting up a tent in a disputed border area near this village is not important, militarily speaking, but it is symbolically significant.
The fact that Hezbollah was able to set up a tent there and that the structure is still in place can be seen as a victory for the party and a failure for Israel. Hezbollah takes advantage of certain loopholes to score points.
This location could be used by the pro-Iran party in the future. Hezbollah is creating new infrastructure for future operations.
Could this type of incident lead to an escalation between Lebanon and Israel?
There is no risk of war or military escalation. Hezbollah and Israel continue to respect the rules of engagement for the time being. These rules were established in 2006 [after the July 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel], with the vote on [UN Security Council] Resolution 1701. The day that UNIFIL ceases to be a reference point in South Lebanon, it will mean that the rules of the game have changed.
Recent events are part of a sort of accumulative wear and tear. They are simple incidents that strike at the system in place but are unlikely to lead to its implosion any time soon.
How would you describe the current situation along the Blue Line?
The status quo currently reigns in this border zone because, for the moment, everyone is in favor of it.
Hezbollah has a local agenda within the Shiite community as well as a regional agenda close to the Iranian regime. If the United States reaches an agreement with Iran, we'll be heading for a lull. But there will always be a few incidents, here and there, that are a necessity for Hezbollah and are part of the problem of the party's survival and existence. I believe that the Saudi-Iranian rapprochement will also help maintain the status quo. It is in nobody's interest today for there to be a change at this level.