Lebanese FM: joint probe into clashes underway

BEIRUT, July 20 (Xinhua) -- Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh said Monday that his ministry is cooperating with the army and the UN Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to investigate Saturday's clashes in south Lebanon, local LBC TV reported.

    "The Lebanese Foreign Ministry is carrying out necessary contacts with army officers, while the investigation is still going on" about the incident between UNIFIL and the residents of Khirbet Selm village Saturday, Salloukh said.

    About 14 UNIFIL soldiers were wounded on Saturday when Lebanese Shiite protesters prevented them from searching a location suspected of containing arms.

    Salloukh said the "UNIFIL did not coordinate with the Lebanese army when it entered the village for search, thinking that the army was already deployed there," adding "but today coordination is present between them."

    Ammunition depot in an abandoned house in the village of Khirbet Selm, 20 kilometers from the Israeli border, exploded on Tuesday in an area widely seen under control of Shiite Lebanese group of Hezbollah.

    The UNIFIL patrols were attacked by around 100 protesters from Khirbet Selm village. They hurled stones to the windows of UNIFIL vehicles and the two sides were engaged in fistfights.

    However, military sources told As-Safier daily Monday that "UNIFIL had no right, under UN resolution 1701, to raid houses or set up checkpoints without prior coordination with the Lebanese army."

UN resolution 1701, which ended the war Hezbollah and Israel in 2006, calls for the deployment of Lebanese army troops in southern Lebanon and prohibits the military presence and activities of Hezbollah in the region.

 

 

 

Calm prevailed in south Lebanon after the Lebanese army contained the Khirbet Selm incident which erupted Saturday after UNIFIL soldiers tried to inspect a house where weapons were believed to be hidden near the area where an explosion went off in a Hezbollah arms depot on Tuesday. Local media, however, gave conflicting reports over what happened.

"Al Safir" and "Al Akhbar" newspapers said UNIFIL troops entered Khirbet Selm without coordinating with the Lebanese army, leading to a clash between residents and U.N. soldiers that left 14 peacekeepers lightly wounded.

"Al Safir" said the Lebanese army command informed UNIFIL commander, Major General Claudio Graziano that the U.N. peacekeepers were responsible for the mishap in Khirbet Selm "because of the mistake they committed when they tried to raid an inhabited house, surpassing the Lebanese army role and its jurisdiction."

Military sources told "Al Safir" that UNIFIL had no right, under Resolution 1701, to raid houses or set up checkpoints without prior coordination with the Lebanese army.


The National News Agency had said residents blocked the Bir al-Salasel and Khirbet Selm main road with burning tires after engaging in a fistfight with the peacekeepers and throwing stones on them in protest against the patrol's attempt to raid the house in the area of Khirbet Selm-Dabshe.


Local media said Israeli troops have reinforced a newly set up post in Kfarshouba, deploying a Merkava tank and a number of soldiers.

The Israeli army also threatened to "open fire on anyone who attempts to cross the border into the Israeli side, even if he wasn't armed."

He said that while progress has been made in Syrian-Saudi talks on Iraq, Iran and Palestine, however a 'serious agenda" is needed on Lebanon.