On Thursday, August 29 2019, the UN Security Council will vote to extend the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). This extension, which occurs once a year, has become a regular automatic extension done without fully assessing if UNIFIL is actually able to fulfill the role it was originally created for.
UNIFIL was established by a UN Security Council resolution in 1978 in order to restore peace and security in southern Lebanon and to assist the Lebanese government in having effective control of the area. On August 2006, at the end of the Second Lebanon War, UN Security Council resolution 1701 called for the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, the withdrawal of all foreign forces, and the cessation of foreign intervention in domestic Lebanese affairs. UNIFIL was tasked with the implementation of this resolution. In addition, the resolution created a buffer zone with the intention to be free of “any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL.” UNIFIL was authorized to take all necessary action ensuring this area is not utilized for any hostile activities.
Despite all good intentions, UNIFIL is limited in its ability to effectively fulfill its mandate under this resolution. Even now, Hezbollah is heavily armed with greater military capabilities than those of the Lebanese Armed Forces and has de-facto control of southern Lebanon. Hezbollah restricts UNIFIL from carrying out its role as a UN peacekeeping force, and the footage published today showing Hezbollah terrorists attacking a UNIFIL patrol in Southern Lebanon is just the latest example of many.
Hezbollah, an extremist Islamic terrorist organization, has constantly called for the destruction of the State of Israel. It serves Iranian interests in Lebanon and violates any international norm and resolution. The reality is that this criminal terrorist organization does not even try to hide its murderous intentions.
In July 2019 its leader Hassan Nasrallah publicly said in a statement:
“We have a larger number of missiles and we have precise missiles that we did not have in 2006… All of Israel is under the range of our missiles… The resistance is stronger than ever… Any war will be bigger than the 2006 war for Israel and it will put it on the brink of extinction.”
Hezbollah has deliberately entrenched its sophisticated military infrastructure in the heart of Lebanese civilian population centers, including a weapons arsenal of over 100,000 missiles. Furthermore, just this past year, Israel discovered 6 cross-border terror attack tunnels that Hezbollah dug into Israeli territory with the intention to abduct or kill Israeli civilians. It is clear that Hezbollah continues to pose a direct threat not only to the Israeli civilian population along the Israeli side of the border but also to the local Lebanese population of southern Lebanon. The lack of action from UNIFIL and its inability to fulfill its role has allowed Hezbollah to pose these threats. This is a blunt violation of UNSCR 1701.
The fact of the matter is that UNIFIL is currently not doing its job. The Security Council must guarantee UNIFIL’s freedom of movement and allow access to all sites in UNIFIL’s mandated area. Every incident where UNIFIL’s access has been prohibited must be fully investigated and transparently reported.
With this upcoming vote at the UN Security Council we have the opportunity to actually give UNIFIL the ability to do what it is supposed to rather than, yet again, automatically renewing its mandate. This is the only way to keep peace and security in southern Lebanon.
UNIFIL Peacekeeping Forces (Source: UNIFIL)