Israel's Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has warned the UN that the "potential for escalation on [Israel's] northern border is increasing because of a scathing violation of Lebanon's sovereignty," according to reports by Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
During a meeting Monday with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at UN headquarters in New York, Gallant accused Iran of "pushing Hezbollah to act."
The Israeli defense minister is also said to have stressed that the UN should be able to "act independently in South Lebanon," expressing an urgent need to allow UNIFIL, the UN's peacekeeping force in Lebanon, to move freely near the borders in order to decrease tensions.
UNIFIL's current mandate expires on Aug. 31, but as is typical it is set to be renewed. Lebanon aims to remove Article 16 from the renewed version. Introduced into UN Resolution 2560 last year, Article 16 allows the UN force to carry out its mission in southern Lebanon “without prior authorization” and “independently” of the Lebanese Army. The introduction of this article last year angered both Hezbollah and the Lebanese state, but they were unable to have it withdrawn at the time.
The renewal of the mandate comes after a year marked by tensions between the UN force and residents of the south, a region where Hezbollah is predominant.
Lebanon's Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib is currently in New York in a bid to have the article withdrawn from the renewal resolution.
In Monday's meeting between Guterres and Gallant, the latter reportedly stressed the importance of a UN condemnation of Hezbollah's actions on the borders. Gallant added that these actions violate Israel's sovereignty and increase the possibility of escalation.
He also noted that Israel will act against any threat to its sovereignty.
Guterres and Gallant discussed "threats to Mideast security, particularly Iran's arming and funding of Hezbollah, Hamas and other militant organizations," Haaretz reported.
During a speech Monday, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said that "the Security Council, because of the Americans, doesn't see what Israel is doing in Lebanon, its threats and infringements of sovereignty. … They want UNIFIL to work for Israel, to be a spy in Israel's pay." He added, "The people of the South will not allow a decision to be implemented in spite of the Lebanese government."
Nasrallah also said Monday that "any targeted assassination on Lebanese soil will not go unanswered, and the response will be strong. We will not allow the Lebanese scene to be open to attacks.''
Tensions have risen at the Lebanese-Israeli border during the summer. Hezbollah set up tents near the disputed village of Ghajar, on the border between Lebanon and the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, which was absorbed by Israel in July.
In July, Israeli forces launched rockets toward Lebanon after mortar fire from the Lebanese side. In the same month, a handful of Lebanese MPs and journalists were targeted by teargas from the Israeli army along the border.