Harriet Sherwood misleads on Syrian weapon crisis with distorted reading of Res. 1701

The Guardian has published several articles on suspected military strikes, over the last several days, by the Israeli Air Force, which likely targeted sophisticated weaponry (possibly Russian made SA-17 anti-aircraft missilesreportedly on its way to the Iranian backed terror group, Hezbollah, illegally based in Lebanon.

Israeli officials have been warning for months that the IDF will not allow the transfer of advanced Syrian weapons – including chemical and biological weapons – to terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Nusra Front and Hezbollah.  

Assuming reports of the Israeli strikes are accurate, it may indicate that Assad had decided test Israeli resolve to prevent such arms transfers.

Harriet Sherwood’s latest report on the conflagration in Lebanon, ‘Israeli warplanes violate Lebanese airspace, Feb 1, included these passages:

Israeli warplanes flew over Lebanon again on Friday, two days after air strikes targeted a convoy of arms or a weapons research base inside Syrian territory.

Under UN security council resolution 1701, passed following the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war, Israeli planes are forbidden from flying over Lebanon. [emphasis added]

Sherwood is referring to the UN security council resolution which ended the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

Here are relevant provisions of 1701:

14. Calls upon the government of Lebanon to secure its borders and other entry points to prevent the entry in Lebanon without its consent of arms or related materiel and requests Unifil as authorised in paragraph 11 to assist the government of Lebanon at its request;
15. Decides further that all states shall take the necessary measures to prevent, by their nationals or from their territories or using their flag vessels or aircraft;
a. the sale or supply to any entity or individual in Lebanon of arms and related materiel of all types, including weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment, and spare parts for the aforementioned, whether or not originating in their territories, and;
b. the provision to any entity or individual in Lebanon of any technical training or assistance related to the provision, manufacture, maintenance or use of the items listed in subparagraph (a) above, except that these prohibitions shall not apply to arms, related material, training or assistance authorised by the government of Lebanon or by Unifil as authorised in paragraph 11;

So, by any reading of 1701, arms transfers from Syria to Hezbollah (in Lebanon) are prohibited and, therefore, Israeli efforts to prevent such transfers would arguably be justified, according to at least the spirit of the resolution.

Further, and more relevant to the current crisis, 1701 includes the following, which specifically prohibits the continuing presence and arming of Hezbollah – an illegal militia – in Lebanon, by calling for:

  • security arrangements to prevent the resumption of hostilities, including the establishment between the Blue Line and the Litani river of an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL as authorised in paragraph 11, deployed in this area;
  • Full implementation of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, and of resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006), that require the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, so that, pursuant to the Lebanese cabinet decision of July 27, 2006, there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese state;
  • No foreign forces in Lebanon without the consent of its government;

Yet, it is widely known that Hezbollah has flagrantly violated 1701, as it has continued to maintain and develop a military infrastructure, including sophisticated offensive and defensive weaponry, south of the Litani river, and are believed to possess nearly 1,000 facilities in southern Lebanon, located in up to 270 civilian villages.

Here’s an IDF map illustrating Hezbollah’s ‘illegal occupation’ of Lebanon.


Not only has Hezbollah failed to disarm, but has in fact acquired (from Iran and Syria) an astonishing array of up to 50,000 rockets (4 x the amount they possessed at the end of the 2006 war) which threaten Israel and the entire region – all under the eyes of UN observers (UNIFIL) tasked with preventing the Shiite terror group’s re-arming. 

Interestingly, Sherwood does add, further in her report, that “Western…sources said Israel’s target was a convoy of trucks carrying Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles from Syria to the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon”, but, not surprisingly, fails to note that such a transfer would necessarily violate 1701.

Even if Sherwood is to argue that reported IAF missions over Lebanon technically violate 1701, the absence of any context regarding Hezbollah’s flagrant violation of the letter and spirit of the resolution for over six years represents another classic example of a Guardian omission which serves to grossly distort the political reality of the region.

19 replies »

  1. Violating agreements by Hezbollah or any other murderous Islamofascist terror organisation is a legitimate way of their holy fight against the international Zionist opressors – theJews trying to prevent to be gassed is a flagrant violation of any existing international law – according to Harriet Sherwood an employee of the “world’s leading liberal voice”.

    • Sherwood writes that under UN security council resolution 1701, passed following the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war, Israeli planes are forbidden from flying over Lebanon.

      This is 100% accurate.

      • Is this the UN’s Lebanon or Hizbullah’s Lebanon, cause their not the same thing…

        Hizbullah maintained the position that Israel occupies many “Lebanese” villages from 1948 onwards.

        What’s your take on this Nat?

    • As usual, Mr Levick has not done any research before writing this silly story.

      Israel currently occupies the Syrian Golan. Israeli aircrafts can fly straight to Syria. They do not need to fly over Lebanese territory to bomb military targets in Syria.

      • Dear Nat,
        Could you please provide us with all the syrian anti aircraft positions?
        Are they in between Damscus and the Golan or North West of Damscus?

        • … still not a reason to fly over another sovereign territory, itsik. Let me remind you that the Government of Lebanon is a Western ally. We’re not talking North Korea here. Syria can also be reached by flying over the sea, which is another way of avoiding violating Lebanon’s sovereignty.

          • Nat, Turkey is not a good friend any more.
            Probably because Israel did just that to attack the neuclear reactor.

            • Who can blame Turkey? Nine of its citizens were killed by Israeli commandos in international waters in 2010, and one Danny Ayalon humiliated Turkish Ambassador Ahmet Oğuz Çelikko in public earlier that year.

              • Let’s hope that the new government will handle diplomatic matters less clumsily, and rebuild ties with Turkey. There are many excellent diplomats in Israel, who were shocked by Ayalon’s behavior. Israeli diplomacy should be left in the hands of Israeli diplomats.

  2. Once has to laugh at the words “Israeli planes are forbidden from flying over Lebanon”.

    But the occasional rocket from Lebanon, and the frequent rockets from gaza, are not forbidden.

    Lebanon is at war (unfortunately, thanks to Hexbollah) with Israel, as is Syria.

    What do the geniuses in the UN who framed such an ideas think war is?

    • Lebanon is not at war with Israel, Akus, Theceasefire has been holding since 2006.

      Please stop scaring tourists away from Israel.

      • The Lebanese army didn’t attack Israel. but they refuse to disarm the militias either.
        The civil war in Lebanon never stopped.

        • … and Israel refused to disarm the settler militia living in illegal settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

            • I don’t see the point of scaring people. The ceasefire between Israel and Lebanon has been holding remarkably well, despite some skirmishes.

  3. Well, AKUS, given the fun and games from Gaza over the past year, we have a very good idea of what the UN thinks an Islamist cease-fire is – just a few rockets rather than a shower.

  4. “So, by any reading of 1701, arms transfers from Syria to Hezbollah (in Lebanon) are prohibited and, therefore, Israeli efforts to prevent such transfers would arguably be justified, according to at least the spirit of the resolution.”

    No it’s not.
    If the Lebanese govt aithorises such transfer it is ok.
    The Lebanese govt approved it and so are complicit in any future attacks upon Israel from within its territory.

  5. ” …. the spirit of the resolution.”

    UN resolutions are so vague, I’ll bet entire careers have been made out of their interpretation.

    As to the topic here: why didn’t the Israeli planes just fly directly over the border? Why go over Lebanon?
    This is a genuine query, btw.