By Elias Sakr
Daily Star staff
BEIRUT: Media reports said Friday tensions rose on the Lebanese-Israeli border as the Israeli Army undertook military maneuvers on its northern border, while Hizbullah members were put on high alert, according to the pan-Arab daily Ash-Sharq al-Awsat.
Asked whether Hizbullah members were put on high alert, the party’s spokesman Ibrahim Musawi told The Daily Star on Friday that Hizbullah was always ready to face any aggression but declined to elaborate further.
On Thursday, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said that he feared the situation in Iran might prompt officials in Tehran to behave
unpredictably, which could prove dangerous given Hizbullah’s weapons, and could lead to unfortunate events. Kouchner made his statement at Paris following talks with Lebanese Premier Saad Hariri who expressed fear of an Israeli aggression against Lebanon.
As for Kouchner’s stance, Hizbullah issued a statement on Friday “strongly condemning” the minister’s remarks. “We see the clear [influence] of the Israeli voice and a complete disregard of the history and legacy of France in fighting aggression and occupation.”
Hizbullah said there was a contradiction in the remarks of Kouchner and the reports by UNIFIL peacekeeping forces in the south, about Israeli’s near-daily overflights of Lebanon and other acts.
“This stance [by Kouchner] is an attempt to absolve the Israeli enemy [of guilt] and cover its repeated violations of Lebanese sovereignty. This constitutes protection of the Israeli occupier and an encouragement for it to continue with its violations.”
On the Syrian front, Ash-Sharq al-Awsat reported that Syria called on its fourth reserve brigade which includes Syrian workers in Lebanon.
It added that Syrian sources said Damascus was against any war against any Arab country and particularly Lebanon.
However, a high-ranking Israeli military official denied reports stating that Israel was considering launching a war against Lebanon, while stressing that military maneuvers were part of Israel’s routine defensive exercises, Ash-Sharq al-Awsat reported.
The Israeli official reportedly said that Israel had earlier announced that it would undertake the large-scale military maneuvers in 2010 in order to learn from its experience during the 2006 war against Lebanon.
On the domestic front, Minyeh MP Ahmad Fatfat underlined Friday the importance of denying Israel any pretext which could be exploited to launch an aggression against Lebanon. “Repeated Israeli statements concerning an upcoming war do not come out of a vacuum,” said Fatfat, a Future Movement official.
Tackling Kouchner’s statement, Fatfat said the French foreign minister’s stance could be an attempt to highlight the dangerous regional situation.
“Both Hariri and Kouchner’s statements signal that the region is prone to instability and all parties should be alert during the upcoming period, so as not to give Israel any pretext to launch a devastating war against Lebanon,” Fatfat said.
“Perhaps French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner thought it was appropriate to point out dangers based on his political position and relations,” Fatfat added.
Meanwhile, the deputy head of the Higher Shiite Council, Sheikh Abdel-Amir Qabalan, slammed Kouchner’s statement while rejecting “silly donations to the Lebanese Army” by unidentified countries.