Israel says Hezbollah is turning Lebanon into a 'powder keg'

Hezbollah has turned Lebanon into a powderkeg according to Israeli President Shimon Peres, as the foreign ministry complained to the UN over the explosion of a rocket in a "Hezbollah arms depot."


AFP - Hezbollah has turned Lebanon into a powderkeg, Israel's president charged on Tuesday, as the foreign ministry complained to the UN Security Council over the explosion of a rocket in a "Hezbollah arms depot."

"Hezbollah has turned Lebanon into a powderkeg," President Shimon Peres said. "It's not Israel that is endangering Lebanon, but rather Hezbollah, just as Hamas is endangering the Palestinians."

"There is no reason for Israel not to make peace with Lebanon," he said, adding that Israel's northern neighbour "could be, with the help of this peace, the Switzerland of the Middle East. But it's clear to everyone who is preventing this."

His comments to journalists during a visit to northern Israel came a day after a rocket exploded in the home of Hezbollah official Abdel Nasser Issa in a village near Lebanon's southern coastal city of Tyre.

Local residents told AFP Issa had found the rocket by a river near his home and taken it back to his garage. He was trying to dismantle the device when it blew up and wounded him, a security official said.

A Hezbollah statement confirmed the incident but denied local media reports that five people had perished. The army also said there were no fatalities and that one person was wounded.

The army and UN peackeepers stationed in southern Lebanon were investigating the explosion.

The Israeli army said the blast "proves again the presence of weapons forbidden in southern Lebanon" under UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 summer war between Israel and Hezbollah.

The 34-day war killed more than 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and more than 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

Resolution 1701 called for the removal of weapons in southern Lebanon from the hands of everyone except the Lebanese army and other state security forces.

Israel has repeatedly accused Hezbollah of rearming, and an Israeli army spokesman claimed on Tuesday night the group has "dozens of arms caches containing hundreds of rockets."

The army later released film taken from a drone that it said showed rockets being removed from Issa's house after the explosion and moved to another location.

"The Israeli army considers that this explosion demonstrates once more the presence in southern Lebanon of prohibited arms," a statement said, adding that it had called on UN peackeepers to open an investigation.

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Gabriela Shalev, called for an urgent meeting of the Security Council to deal with what she called a "grave violation" of the resolution, the foreign ministry said.

"This is the second time in three months that an explosion has occurred in a Hezbollah arms depot, which proves that the movement has illegal arms south of the Litani River and is rebuilding its military structure," the statement said.

The resolution stipulates in particular that the area between the river and the Israeli border to its south must be free of all armed groups except for Lebanese security forces and UN peackeepers.

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