Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon called on the UN Security Council on Saturday to approve a "more effective" mandate for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
With the peacekeeping mission up for renewal next week, the United States has been pressing to step up efforts to tackle what Ambassador Nikki Haley described as a "massive flow of illegal weapons" to Hezbollah-dominated southern Lebanon, where neighboring Israel has long complained that the militant group operates with impunity.
On Friday, Haley sharply criticized the UN peacekeeping commander in Lebanon, saying he is "blind" to the spread of illegal arms and reiterating a call for the force to do more about it.
"Ambassador Haley is right. UNIFIL cannot remain blind in the face of Hezbollah's dangerous armament in southern Lebanon," Danon said Saturday. "The UN forces must do their job and put an end to Hezbollah's violations to ensure the quiet in the area remains."
The peacekeeping commander, Maj. Gen. Michael Beary, pushed back earlier this week on US and Israeli criticism. The Irish general told The Associated Press that his force has no evidence of weapons being illegally transferred and stockpiled in the area, and that "if there was a large cache of weapons, we would know about it."
Haley, meanwhile, said there's plenty of evidence including Hezbollah’s own boasts, accusing Beary of displaying "an embarrassing lack of understanding of what's going on."
"He seems to be the only person in south Lebanon who is blind to what Hezbollah is doing," she said, adding that his view of the situation "shows that we need to have changes" in the mission.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the council in a letter that he intends to look at ways for the peacekeeping force to "enhance its efforts," but he stressed that it's primarily the Lebanese military's responsibility to ensure the south is free of unauthorized weapons.
Israel has provided the Security Council with evidence of Hezbollah's violations, including photos of observation posts set up along the Israel-Lebanon border under the guise of a civilian organization called Green Without Borders. The UN has rejected Israel's claims.
The Hezbollah-funded organization's declared goal is to expand the green areas of Lebanon and raise awareness to environmental protection. It also promotes agriculture and collects ecological data.
In a letter to members of the UN Security Council sent in June, Danon described an incident that occurred in April, when a group of civilians denied the United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon (UNIFIL) access to an observation post belonging to Green Without Borders.
The letter included photos of the observation posts and maps detailing their exact locations.
"This evidence proves Hezbollah is working along the Blue Line under the guise of civilian activity, while violating UN Security Council resolutions 1701 and 1559," Danon wrote.
"Hezbollah continues to grow its strength in southern Lebanon and is threatening the stability of the entire region. The international community must not turn a blind eye to these dangerous threats," he added.
The peacekeeping mission dates to 1978. It was expanded after the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah so that peacekeepers could deploy along the border with Israel to help Lebanese troops extend their authority into the south for the first time in decades.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.