Israel: UNIFIL Bombing a Message to Scale Back Operations Against Hizbullah

Israeli defense officials have said that the latest attack on UNIFIL stems from Hizbullah's fear that the U.N. peacekeeping force will seek greater freedom to search Lebanese villages for weapons without a previous coordination with the Lebanese army.

The bombing of the UNIFIL convoy near the southern port city of Sidon on Tuesday was likely aimed at sending a message to the peacekeepers to scale back their operations against Hizbullah, The Jerusalem Post quoted Israeli defense officials as saying.

The Israeli daily said Thursday that the Jewish state has been lobbying diplomats from countries which contribute troops to UNIFIL – particularly Spain, Italy and France – to get the U.N. to issue new rules of engagement for the peacekeeping force that will enable it to search villages without prior coordination with the Lebanese army.

According to UNIFIL’s current rules of engagement, the force is not allowed to enter southern villages to search for Hizbullah arms caches unless it coordinates the operation with the army.

But even If the new rules were approved by the U.N., they would still need the green light of the Lebanese government. This is unlikely given that the cabinet is led by Hizbullah and its allies.

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