WASHINGTON, July 20 (UPI) -- Israeli attacks are increasing support for Hezbollah and weakening the Lebanese government, said the leader of the United Nations Thursday.
They have also hamstrung the 2,000-man U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon which is unable to render humanitarian aid under the onslaught of bombs, said United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan Thursday, in an appeal to the Security Council to take strong action to stop the fighting in Lebanon.
"Because of the continued fighting, restrictions imposed by Israel and the destruction of many roads, the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon has no freedom of movement and is unable even to provide humanitarian escorts for displaced persons. Its personnel remain confined to the Naqoura Headquarters and their positions in the area of operations," he said.
Israeli airstrikes on Monday collapsed a building in which a United Nations staff member and his wife live, and presumably killed them, Annan said.
"We are gravely concerned about their fate, since the approach road to Tyre is now impassable and (U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon) engineers have been unable to reach the area," said Annan.
Annan noted several times the battle was sparked by Hezbollah's "provocative" raid into Israeli that killed eight soldiers and resulted in two being kidnapped, but he also condemned the disproportionate Israeli response, and warned it is only increasing popular support for the terrorist group.
"Whatever damage Israel's operations may be doing to Hezbollah's military capabilities, they are doing little or nothing to decrease popular support for Hezbollah in Lebanon or the region, but are doing a great deal to weaken the Government of Lebanon," Annan said.
"The very Government which Israel wants to extend its control throughout the territory (to disarm Hezbollah) has itself become a hostage to the crisis, is less able than ever to deploy its forces in the areas necessary to control Hezbollah, and is appealing to the international community for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire."