Officials Visit UNIFIL HQ after Dispute Reports with Residents
Prime Minister Hassan Diab, Defense Minister Zeina Akar and Army Chief Joseph Aoun visited the UNIFIL headquarters in Naqoura on Wednesday after reported disputes between the peacekeeping forces and residents in South Lebanon.
“The need for the UNIFIL forces in South Lebanon is still necessary and urgent in light of Israel’s continued violations of the Lebanese sovereignty,” said Diab from the UNIFIL headquarters.
He emphasized that “coordination of efforts between the UNIFIL and the Lebanese army is necessary to avoid confusion, facilitate the peacekeepers mission and strengthening confidence among the southern residents," added Diab.
However, the PM appealed “to the world to pressure the Israeli enemy into withdrawal from Lebanon’s waters and the occupied Lebanese territories.”
Diab stressed that Lebanon "adheres to UN Resolution 1701, and called on the United Nations to compel the Israeli enemy to respect this decision.”
For his part, UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander Major General Stefano Del Col said: “I look forward to working with the Lebanese government and army to implement international resolutions, mainly decision 1701.”
He also commended the Government of Lebanon and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) for continued cooperation in the implementation of UNIFIL’s mandate.
“This cooperation is at the center of our collective success in maintaining nearly 14 years of calm in south Lebanon,” he said. “Together, we have to build on this long period of unprecedented stability to be able to carry out our mandate effectively and without obstacles.”
He added that today’s visit “greatly encourages” UNIFIL peacekeepers as well as their strategic partners to further build on the steady gains in the security situation since the cessation of hostilities came into effect.
He also commended the Prime Minister’s “strong and decisive leadership” in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement, UNIFIL described the visit by Diab, Akar and Aoun as “a show of support to the UNIFIL Mission in south Lebanon.”
Ties have been tense recently between residents in South Lebanon and UNIFIL forces.
A dispute broke out late Monday in the southern village of Blida between Finnish peacekeepers and residents, after a UNIFIL military vehicle hit two cars and motorbike, the National News Agency reported.
Young men cut off the road in protest, and the Finnish peacekeepers had to be escorted out by the Lebanese army, it said.
On Tuesday, surrounding villages in a joint statement accused the patrol of "entering and searching people's vineyards and private properties", describing such actions as unacceptable.
Lebanon and Israel are still technically at war.
Set up in 1978, UNIFIL was beefed up after a months-long war in 2006 and tasked with guaranteeing a ceasefire and Israeli withdrawal from a demilitarised zone on the border.
UNIFIL can have up to 10,000 troops on the ground, monitoring the truce and helping Lebanese troops secure the borders.