BEIRUT (Reuters) - A U.N. investigation into explosions in south Lebanon indicated on Sunday that Israel had planted spy devices on Lebanese land in what a senior U.N. official said would be a violation of a ceasefire agreement.
The UNIFIL peacekeeping force in Lebanon said its preliminary probe into two explosions in the south showed they had been caused by the detonation of underground sensor devices.
The units were apparently buried by Israeli forces during the 2006 war with the Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah, it said.
“These do look like some sort of espionage device,” Michael Williams, the U.N. special coordinator for Lebanon, told Reuters.
If confirmed, the devices would represent violations of Security Council resolution 1701 which halted the 34-day war.
A first explosion was reported on Saturday evening and a second on Sunday morning. No injuries were reported. The devices had been placed some 2 km inside Lebanese territory between the villages of Houla and Meiss al-Jabal.
“Preliminary indications are that these explosions were caused by explosive charges contained in unattended underground sensors which were placed in this area by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) apparently during the 2006 war,” UNIFIL said in a statement.
UNIFIL was investigating what had caused the devices to blow up. A Lebanese security official said they appeared to have been detonated by remote control from Israel after their discovery by Lebanese security forces.
Israel did not respond specifically to the Lebanese assertion. But an Israeli military statement said Sunday’s incident proved Hezbollah’s military presence in south Lebanon, especially in rural Shi’ite areas along the border with Israel.
UNIFIL said it had protested to the Israeli military about overflights by drones while the Lebanese army and the peacekeepers were investigating on the ground. Lebanese army troops opened fire on the drones with machine gun and small arms fire, the UNIFIL statement said.
Williams said the use of drones was an obvious violation of Lebanese sovereignty and resolution 1701 “and not particularly helpful at a time of obvious tension in the south.”
UNIFIL is also investigating another incident in south Lebanon last week at the village of Tayr Filsi, a UNIFIL spokesman said. The Lebanese army and Hezbollah said one person was wounded when a shell exploded in the garage of a Hezbollah member in the village on Monday.
Israel has said the blast showed munitions were being stockpiled in violation of resolution 1701 and has complained to the United Nations about the incident.
The next report on Security Council resolution 1701 is due to be filed later this month.
The 2006 war broke out after Hezbollah, an anti-Israeli Shi’ite group backed by Iran, launched a raid into Israel, capturing two soldiers. More than 1,000 people, mostly Lebanese civilians, were killed before the United Nations brokered a ceasefire.
Reporting by Tom Perry in Beirut and Jerusalem bureau; Editing by Angus MacSwan