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UN extends mandate of Lebanon peacekeepers

August 30, 2019 at 9:46 am

UNIFIL peacekeepers stand by at the Lebanon and Israel border [UN Peacekeeping/Twitter]

The UN Security Council yesterday renewed the mandate of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) for another year.

Unanimously adopting the resolution, the 15-member body extended UNIFIL’s mandate until 31 August 2020 and reiterated its call for Israel and Lebanon to support a permanent ceasefire and long-term solution, the UN said in a statement.

Stressing the positive role of UNIFIL, the council called on the Lebanese government to facilitate the mission’s access in the country.

The council also slammed all air and ground violations of the Blue Line and urged all parties to “respect the cessation of hostilities, to prevent any violation of the Blue Line and to respect it in its entirety, and to cooperate fully with the United Nations and UNIFIL.”

The 120-kilometre (75-mile) Blue Line is a UN-sponsored border demarcation established in 2000 between Israel and Lebanon.

“The council also urged the government of Israel to expedite the withdrawal of its army from northern Ghajar [village] without further delay in coordination with UNIFIL,” it added.

READ: Hariri sends message via Russia as Israel ‘violates Lebanon’s sovereignty’

It had been expected that the US and Israel would seek a change to UNIFIL’s mandate and a reduction of its troop numbers. Both have been very critical of the peacekeeping force, claiming that peacekeepers have not carried out their duty to report the activities of Hezbollah as fully as possible.

The vote comes as tensions rise to dangerous levels following skirmishes between Lebanon and Israel in recent days. The Lebanese army opened fire at two of three Israeli drones that breached Lebanese airspace yesterday evening in the south of the country near the Israeli border. Israel also raided a Palestinian group based in Lebanon’s eastern region of Bekaa.

UNIFIL is a multinational peacekeeping force that has been deployed in southern Lebanon since 1978. Its primary objective is to maintain security in the region and monitor a cessation-of-hostilities agreement.

Following the 2006 conflict between Israel and the Lebanese group Hezbollah, UNIFIL was tasked with ensuring the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which called for a ceasefire between the warring sides and an Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon.