From Israel Hayom:
Israel will present U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres with updated intelligence information on Iranian and Hezbollah activity in the region when he visits Israel later this month, Israel Hayom has learned.
Guterres is expected to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. He is also scheduled to visit Ramallah, where he will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Guterres is expected to visit the Gaza Strip, where he will take a first-hand look at the activities of U.N. agencies. Although Guterres plans to focus on ways to jump-start the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel would like the visit to deal primarily with issues such as Iran’s growing meddling in the region and Hezbollah’s actions in Lebanon.
In Israel, Guterres will meet with senior Israel Defense Forces officials, who will provide him with updated information on Hezbollah’s activity in south Lebanon. According to a recent IDF report, Hezbollah has been operating along the border with Israel for the first time since the 2006 Second Lebanon War. It has disguised its presence by making its structures and positions look as if they belong to a Lebanese agribusiness NGO called Green without Borders.
Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon has filed an official complaint over this activity, saying it is in violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 that prohibits Hezbollah from having an armed presence in southern Lebanon. But the U.N. has yet to act on that complaint. Israelis officials will warn Guterres that letting Hezbollah’s activity go unchecked, particularly its buildup of advanced weaponry in breach of U.N. Security Council resolutions, could lead to an escalation.
Israel has recently shared similar intelligence with U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley. During her visit to Israel several months ago, Deputy Chief of General Staff Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi gave her a tour of the northern border during which she was briefed on Hezbollah’s efforts to disguise its activities along the border. During Guterres’ visit, Israel is expected to sound the alarm over Iran’s increased clout in the region in light of Islamic State’s losses and the recent de-escalation in the Syrian civil war.
Israel is concerned that Iran will be able to create a “contiguous zone of influence” of Shiite dominance from Iran through Iraq and Syria, which would increase the threat to Israel and the Sunni states in the region. Mossad Director Yossi Cohen said similar things this week when he briefed cabinet ministers on regional developments and said that current trends are not favorable to Israel and that Iran is filling the void left by Islamic State.
Cohen is expected to visit Washington in coming days along with Military Intelligence Directorate head Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi and the head of the Political-Military Affairs Bureau at the Defense Ministry, Zohar Palti, to hold discussions on Iran.
They will ask the Trump administration to take more aggressive measures to check Iran’s activity in the region. A similar message will be conveyed when Guterres arrives, and he will also be asked to see that the Security Council take action to prevent additional Iranian weapon shipments from Iran to Hezbollah via Syria.
Guterres will also tour the southern border with senior officers. He will be shown the hundreds of trucks that go into the Gaza Strip every day with supplies, and will also see one of the cross-border tunnels Hamas dug into Israel. Israel will try to convey the message that Hamas is trying to take advantage of Israel’s humanitarian efforts to build its military strength. Guterres will be given information showing that Hamas has been preventing the United Nations from doing its task by misusing U.N. funds and facilities, preventing their use to improve the welfare of the Palestinian population.