UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon)

  • Duration : March 1978 to date
  • Location : Southern Lebanon
  • Headquarters : Naqoura, Lebanon
  • Mandate : To confirm the withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon, to restore international peace and security and to assist the Government of Lebanon in ensuring the return of its effective authority in the area. In June 1982, right after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the Security Council extended the mandate of UNIFIL to include assistance and humanitarian aid to the population.
  • Current strength : some 4,950 troops assisted by 60 UNTSO military observers, and approximately 520 international and local civilian staff
  • Fatalities : 190 (most of them lost their lives on mission, mainly during attacks from the South Lebanon Army, financed and trained by Israel to guard the Israeli « Security Zone » in Lebanon. It is the Irish who suffered the biggest losses with 29 of their soldiers killed in ten years.
  • Expenditure : The annual cost to the United Nations is approximately $ 146 million
  • Financing : Assessments in respect of a special account
  • Commander : Major-General George Konrote (Fiji)
  • Current Contributors : Fiji, Finland, France, Ghana, Ireland, Italy, Nepal, Norway, Poland, Sweden.

From 1978 to 2000, UNIFIL was prevented from fulfilling its mandate due to the presence of the Israeli South Lebanon Army. During this period, it will attempt more or less to limit hostilities, contribute to stability in the region and as much as possible to protect the population from violence.

First turning point: The Israeli withdrawal (2000)

In May 2000, the government of Ehud Barak decided to withdraw its troops unilaterally from southern Lebanon, allowing UN observers to verify the effectiveness of the withdrawal and to confirm the boundary line separating Israel and Lebanon ( the Blue Line). But the Lebanese army doesn’t take control of southern Lebanon (to be panned only if comprehensive peace with Israel), leaving Hezbollah master of the land. The future of UNIFIL is uncertain.

UNIFIL reports violations of the Blue Line and is involved in mine clearance in the region. In January 2001, the UN Secretary-General says that UNIFIL has fulfilled two of the three missions assigned to him : the confirmation of Israel’s withdrawal and the help to the Lebanese authorities as they returned in the region. Regarding the restoration of peace and international security, Kofi Annan believes that UNIFIL still has a role to play there.

The UNIFIL mandate is renewed every six months by the Security Council, its workforce being reassessed each time. Despite the ceasefire increasingly respected along the Blue Line, violations and tensions persist in the Shab’a farms area. In addition to violations of Lebanese airspace by Israeli aircraft wich remain daily. On the Lebanese side, the violations are more earthly and done by shepherds. Hizbullah has also made grip on the region of South Lebanon and often disrupts the movement of UNIFIL.

UNIFIL continues to maintain the cease-fire in the adjacent area of the Blue Line by mobile patrols and fixed positions. She is assisted in this task by observers of UNTSO. She also maintains close contact with Israeli and Lebanese parties and finally brings humanitarian aid to people in the region (medical care, water projects, equipment and services for schools and orphanages, social services to needy people).

Second turning point: the conflict between Israel and Lebanon (2006)

On July 12, 2006, Hezbollah proceeded to rocket shots across the Blue Line and kidnaps two Israeli soldiers. Israel response happens on the same day. For one month, the South Lebanon is once again the field of an open conflict.

On 18 July, the Secretary-General of the United Nations takes stock on the last mandate of UNIFIL and noted the unstable situation in southern Lebanon during the last six months. He also observed that in the circumstances of the conflict UNIFIL can no longer perform its role in peacekeeping.

On 31 July, the Security Council extend the mandate of UNIFIL until 31 August by Resolution 1697. On August 11, Resolution 1701 imposes an end to hostilities and expressed the desire to see the power and strength of the UNIFIL strengthened, and its mandate extended. We speak since of a UNIFIL 2. Resolution 1701 reaffirms the resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006) demanding the withdrawal of all armed groups from southern Lebanon so that only the Lebanese state will be allowed to bear arms and to exercise its authority.

UNIFIL 2 now has 15000 troops from 30 countries. At his command, the Italian Claudio Graziano succeeds french commander in chief Alain Pellegrini. This change takes place that the Italian contribution to UNIFIL is the highest and exceeds that of France – which had previously been the largest.

UNIFIL 2 is responsible for monitoring the cessation of hostilities, to accompany and support the deployment of the Lebanese army in southern Lebanon and to facilitate humanitarian access to civilian populations in the region.

For more details see UNIFIL on the site of the United Nations:

http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unifil/