Lebanon’s ambassador to the United Nations on Thursday accused Israel of hacking into the country’s telephone network to warn southern Lebanese citizens of imminent Israeli military activity on the border, in what was described by Beirut as “extremely serious acts.”
Amal Mudallali’s letter to the United Nations Security Council came days after Israel launched Operation Northern Shield to dismantle cross-border attack tunnels it says were dug by the Hezbollah terror group.
“Lebanon condemns in the strongest possible terms the political and diplomatic campaign being waged by Israel against Lebanon, which it fears is a prelude to the launch of further attacks,” she wrote.
“That campaign is being accompanied by a number of extremely serious acts, of which the most recent is that Israel has breached the Lebanese communications grid by hacking into the telephone network and sending recorded messages to peaceable civilian inhabitants of the southern part of the village of Kafr Killa warning them of imminent explosions to take place on Lebanese territory that might put their lives at risk,” wrote Mudallali.
Israel frequently forewarns civilians to avoid certain areas ahead of military strikes in an effort to avoid non-military casualties. But the Israel Defense Forces warnings were condemned by Lebanon as tantamount to issuing a “direct threat against their lives.
“This constitutes a new and extremely serious attack on the security and safety of the citizens of Lebanon, whereby Israel is violating the dignity and privacy of individuals and making a direct threat against their lives,” wrote Lebanon’s UN envoy.
She called on the Security Council to “take all measures necessary to confront this systematic campaign being waged by Israel and Israel’s ongoing violations of Lebanese sovereignty, which are a threat to the security and stability of the entire region.”
The letter, which was distributed to reporters by Israel’s mission to the UN, was condemned by Ambassador Danny Danon as “hypocritical.”
“The Lebanese government, under whose rule Hezbollah has built an underground city of tunnels and factories for precision-guided missiles against Israel, is hypocritically trying to condemn Israel, which is working to protect its [the Lebanese] civilians,” said Danon in a statement on Friday.
He also challenged the UN Security Council to convene on the issue so that “we will present conclusive evidence on Hezbollah violations and to the turning of a blind eye by the Lebanese government” to the tunnel-building project.
On Thursday night, a Lebanon-based United Nations peacekeeping force confirmed the existence of a tunnel penetrating Israeli territory from southern Lebanon, which Israel says was dug by the Hezbollah terrorist group.
In a statement, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, known by its acronym UNIFIL, called the tunnel a “serious concern” and said it would investigate the matter with Lebanese authorities.
The tunnel, as well as two others the IDF said it was working on to uncover in the western Galilee, was found as part of the military’s newly launched operation to find and destroy Hezbollah attack tunnels.
If the Shiite terror group was indeed found to have dug the passage, it would likely constitute a violation of UN Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War between Israel and Hezbollah and required all armed groups besides the Lebanese military to remain north of the country’s Litani River.
UNIFIL’s primary mission is to enforce UN Resolution 1701, something Israeli officials routinely criticize the peacekeeping force for failing to do.
“The IDF sees the Lebanese government, Lebanese military and UNIFIL as responsible for all that happens in Lebanon and for the enforcement of Resolution 1701,” the army said in a statement.
The army confirmed it had soldiers operating at a third location, also in the western Galilee, and IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said there were other sites where the military believed Hezbollah had dug tunnels into Israeli territory.
The Israeli military said it believes the tunnels were meant to be used by Hezbollah as a surprise component of an opening salvo in a future war, alongside the mass infiltration of operatives above ground and the launching of rockets, missiles, and mortar shells at northern Israel.
A senior Israeli official on Thursday said the tunnels discovered inside Israel were large enough to be used by “entire battalions” to enter Israeli territory in order to “carry out killing sprees and kidnappings and to capture Israeli towns and villages.”
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.