Israel to UNSC: Empower UNIFIL to better monitor Hezbollah in Lebanon

Brig.-Gen. Shlomi Binder, who commands Division 91, said that ‘Hezbollah’s terrorist army’ was active on the border and attempting to destabilize the region

Foreign ambassadors and diplomats tour Israel's border with Lebanon with the IDF and the Foreign Ministry (Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
The UN’s peacekeeping mission on the Lebanese southern border (UNIFIL) must be better empowered to monitor violations by Hezbollah, Israeli officials said on Friday as they toured the area with 12 foreign ambassadors and diplomats.
The Foreign Ministry and IDF tour came in the midst of an Israeli and US campaign to sway the UN Security Council to expand the UN Interim Force in Lebanon’s scope of operation in advance of the mandate’s expected renewal this August.
“Effective fulfillment of the UNIFIL mandate is necessary in order to ensure regional stability and to prevent Hezbollah from gaining power in Southern Lebanon,” said Avivit Bar-Ilan, who heads the Foreign Ministry International Organizations Division. “We expect the UNSC members to adopt a decision that will grant UNIFIL the power to fulfill its duty without restrictions,” she added.
Brig.-Gen. Effie Defrin, who ‎‏heads the army’s International Cooperation Division said, “The IDF is committed to assist UNIFIL in Southern Lebanon in fulfilling UNSC Resolution 1701. In order to preserve the stability in the area, UNIFIL must be able to move freely in southern Lebanon and report to the UNSC all violations perpetrated by the terrorist organization Hezbollah.”
Galilee Division Commanding Officer Brig.-Gen. Shlomi Binder urged the international community to take action against Hezbollah’s terrorist army.
“We work to strengthen our preparedness for any scenario and will continue to operate day and night to keep the citizens of Israel safe and protected,” he said.
Both Foreign Ministry and IDF officials briefed the foreign diplomats on Hezbollah’s activity and underscored the dangers of the terror tunnels Hezbollah dug and attempted to dig under the borders, so that it could attack Israel. UNIFIL has had difficulty reporting back to the UN on the matter, because it has not been granted full access to areas where the tunnel openings are in southern Lebanon.
During the tour, the foreign diplomats were shown the remains of Hezbollah tunnel fortifications on the Israeli side of the border.
UNIFIL has a force of 10,500 peacekeepers from 45 different countries. It has been monitoring the Israeli-Lebanese border since 1978, and its mandate is renewed annually. Among its tasks is monitoring the compliance of both Israel and Lebanon, including Hezbollah, with UNSC Resolution 1701 that set out the cease fire terms that ended the Second Lebanon war in 2006.
It’s expected that the UNSC will extend UNIFIL’s mandate, and already at the end of June, the UN General Assembly Fifth Committee approved a UNIFIL budget of $480.6 million for the coming year.
At issue, however, is whether or not the UNSC will agree to expand UNIFIL’s mandate. At a May UNSC meeting on UNIFIL, US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft complained about UNIFIL’s ineffectiveness, warning that Hezbollah was already dictating its movements.
In particular, Craft complained that both Lebanese and Hezbollah restrictions on UNIFIL had kept it from fully investigating the issue of the terror tunnels. Nor had UNIFIL been able to stop Hezbollah from stockpiling arms and building factories to upgrade its rockets.
The UNSC Presidency in May, then held by Estonia, said it was important for UNIFIL to be able to fulfill its mandate. But to date, no UNSC action has been taken to help ensure that it does so.