UNSC renews mandate for peace keepers at Israeli-Lebanese border

Israel's Mission to the UN welcomed new provisions in the mandate which it said were "a clear call on the Lebanese government to allow access to UNIFIL forces."

August 31, 2019 19:35
3 minute read.
UN peacekeepers (UNIFIL) patrol the border with Israel, in the village of Khiam, Lebanon August 26,

UN peacekeepers (UNIFIL) patrol the border with Israel, in the village of Khiam, Lebanon August 26, 2019. . (photo credit: REUTERS/ALI HASHISHO)

The UN Security Council has renewed the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon that monitors compliance by both Lebanon and Israel with the peace agreement that ended the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

The 15-member council called on both Israel and Lebanon to comply with the terms of that peace agreement, which is set out in Resolution 1701.

Among the issues of concern were ensuring that UNIFIL could inspect Hezbollah attack tunnels against Israel on the border and the continued flow of arms to Hezbollah.

In renewing the mandate, the UNSC indirectly called on Israel to halt its aerial strikes against Lebanon and its use of Lebanese airspace to strike at Syria.

The UNSC, in its renewal resolution, condemned “all violations of the Blue Line, both by air and ground, and strongly calls upon 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.”

Israel’s Mission to the UN, however, welcomed new provisions in the mandate which it said were “a clear call on the Lebanese government to allow access to UNIFIL forces and increased reporting on the transfer of weapons to terrorists in Lebanon.”

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said, “The updated mandate sends a clear message to the Lebanese government: restrain Hezbollah. The terrorist organization’s grip on southern Lebanon is intended to only harm the State of Israel and endanger the entire region. Israel will not accept such a reality, and calls on the international community to act resolutely against the Iranian proxy in Lebanon.”

US Ambassador Jonathan Cohen told the UNSC he remained concerned about UNIFIL access to the sites where Hezbollah built tunnels by which to attack Israel.

“As we made clear to the council just a few weeks ago, we continue to see UNIFIL prevented from accessing areas of concern,” Cohen said. “Eight months after their discovery, UNIFIL still cannot access suspected Hezbollah tunnels sites on the Lebanese side of the Blue Line, because Lebanese leaders have not directed their armed forces to investigate suspected sites with UNIFIL. In this renewal, we made serious efforts to address access issues. There was some progress, but we were unable to include a time frame for facilitating access, which is necessary for accountability.”

“We must do more to ensure UNIFIL has unimpeded, timely access to the entire Blue Line and to urge Lebanese civilian leadership to address these concerns,” he continued. “The fact that UNIFIL cannot access all of the areas within its area of operations leads us to believe that it is time to reexamine troop strength.”

He also said it was important to ensure that arms did not continue to flow to Hezbollah.

“The implementation of the arms embargo under Resolution 1701 remains a top priority for the United States,” Cohen said. “While some council members did not want to include language that was too prescriptive in this mandate renewal, in the coming year, the Secretariat needs to take serious steps to build on the annex and increase the UN’s reporting on, and ability to effectively monitor and verify implementation of, the arms embargo.” Cohen said.

The United Kingdom’s Ambassador Jonathan Allen said, “we reiterate the need for all parties to allow the mission to deliver its mission in full. The UK is deeply concerned about the recent escalation between Israel and Hezbollah. We strongly urge all parties to show restraint and de-escalate. Conflict is in no one’s interest.”

UNIFIL is composed of 10,500 peacekeepers from 43 countries.

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