Lebanon to File Protest With Security Council Over Israeli Blockade

The Lebanese government decided Monday to protest to the U.N. Security Council over Israel's blockade of the country and call on it to force Israel to lift the siege.

The government move came two days after Lebanese legislators began an open-ended sit-in at the Parliament building to protest the Israeli blockade of Beirut's airport and the country's seaports, which began two days after fighting erupted on July 12 between Israeli troops and Hezbollah guerrillas.

Israel says it is not required under the cease-fire resolution to lift its blockade until Lebanese borders and points of entry are secured to prevent weapons shipments to Hezbollah. It wants a U.N. peacekeeping force deploying in the south to also take positions on the Lebanese-Syrian border to stop shipments — but the force is not mandated to deploy there.

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"The Cabinet has decided to file a complaint with the Security Council against Israel for its continued blockade of Lebanon, its violation of international resolutions ... and its insistence to challenge the international will," Information Minister Ghazi Aridi told reporters after a special Cabinet meeting.

The Cabinet also urged Security Council member states to condemn Israel and force it to implement Resolution 1701, Aridi said, referring to the U.N. resolution that ended 34 days of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah on Aug. 14.

Despite the air blockade, a Qatar Airways plane landed at Beirut airport on Monday carrying 142 passengers, the first commercial flight from the Gulf country to Lebanon since the war. Though company officials said the plane flew without Israeli permission, Israel said it had agreed to the flight and that more were expected.

Israel launched a massive offensive in Lebanon after Hezbollah guerrillas snatched the two soldiers in a cross-border raid on July 12.

Resolution 1701 calls, among other things, on Israel to lift its sea and air blockade of Lebanon. Israel says the restrictions are necessary to prevent Hezbollah from rearming, while Lebanon says they hamper the delivery of food and medical supplies and put a damper on attempts to revive its badly battered economy.

Currently, Israel allows only Lebanese and Jordanian commercial flights to land in Beirut, on condition they make a stop in Amman before proceeding to the Lebanese capital. It has permitted flights carrying food and medical supplies from Egypt and Jordan to land in the Lebanese capital. Ships cleared by the Israelis are allowed entry to Lebanese seaports.

President Emile Lahoud urged the United Nations on Monday to act quickly to end the Israeli blockade.

"The Security Council must meet as soon as possible to take a decision in order for Israel to end its blockade," Lahoud told reporters before entering the Cabinet meeting.

As a result of the Israeli siege, Lebanese Finance Minister Jihad Azour said Lebanon was losing about US$40 million daily in customs and added value tax revenues and commercial business.

On Saturday, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri urged Arab planes and ships to break the Israeli blockade, describing it as a "military aggression."