(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
The IDF on Sunday praised the United Nations' decision to appoint Italian Gen. Claudio Graziano as the new head of the UNIFIL peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon.
Graziano, whose appointment has yet to be officially announced, is scheduled to take up his new post by mid-February, when French Maj.-Gen. Alain Pellegrini steps down after three years in the post.
"He is a serious officer," IDF sources said of Graziano. "He takes his job seriously and we expect to see a continued crackdown on Hizbullah under his command."
Graziano rose through the ranks in Italy's Artillery Corps and commanded NATO's Kabul Multinational Brigade in the past. He has extensive experience in combating insurgency and terrorism, according to the IDF.
Northern Command sources also praised the performance of UNIFIL's 2,500-strong Italian contingent, saying it was working to prevent Hizbullah from returning to its outposts on the border. The Italian force has been instrumental in destroying close to 20,000 explosive devices - bombs and mines - left behind in Lebanon from last summer's war.
Italian Ambassador Sandro De Bernardin told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that the appointment of Graziano reflected Italy's commitment to stabilizing Lebanon.
"This is confirmation that our government is willing to invest heavily for the sake of the stabilization of Lebanon," he said. "I am sure it will also be instrumental in maintaining a continued good relationship between Israel and Italy."
Last week, IDF officers bid "good riddance" to Pellegrini, who they said was pro-Hizbullah and had not made sufficient efforts action to prevent the Islamists from building their forces and attacking Israel.