BEIRUT: On his first official tour of the south since assuming office, Defense Minister Elias Bou Saab stressed Lebanon’s commitment to asserting its sovereignty in the disputed areas along the southern border with Israel.
“I wanted to visit point B1 in Naqoura,” he said during a news conference, referring to an area just south of the town, “but I was not able to because the Israeli enemy put a fence in that area.”
He added, “However, we are keen on demanding every [inch] of our land, whether through diplomacy or coordination with the United Nations.”
Bou Saab praised the work of the U.N. peacekeeping force in the south to maintain stability, but criticized what he said was the lack of a response from the international community to daily Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty.
“It is not acceptable that we do not hear anything from the international community except for when a violation is done by Lebanon, when a herder crosses the border or someone took a photograph of the border,” Bou Saab said.
The Israelis “are violating land, waters and airspace, and nothing happens,” he said.
Earlier in the day, the state-run National News Agency reported, Israeli jets flew at low altitudes over the city of Sidon and other parts of the south.
Still, the minister refuted the idea that a war with Israel was possible in the summer.
“There are no indicators of war or any military operation,” the minister said, adding that UNIFIL commander Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col had confirmed this to him during their meeting at the U.N. agency's headquarters in Naqoura.
The defense minister observed UNIFIL operations and checked up on the implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 war with Israel, according to local media.
"The first tour should be on the southern border and visit the disputed border points,” Bou Saab had said in televised remarks from a helicopter flying him to Naqoura from Tyre, where he had started his visit with a meeting with Army Commander Gen. Joseph Aoun.
Later in the day, Bou Saab flew over the village of Shebaa, near the Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms, onboard a UNIFIL helicopter, local media reported.
The NNA said he later touched down on the outskirts of the village of Kfar Shuba and visited the border area there before proceeding to Bint Jbeil via helicopter.
The defense minister is also expected to visit Nabatieh’s Adaisseh, Ain Ibl, Maroun al-Ras, Marjayoun and other southern towns.