UNIFIL Takes Precautionary Measures in Light of EU Decision against Hizbullah

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon has taken precautionary measures around its posts in the South, reported the National News Agency on Tuesday.

It said that the measures were taken in light of the European Union's decision to blacklist Hizbullah's military wing as a terrorist organization.

UNIFIL intensified its security measures near its posts and added more cement barriers as a protection around some of them.

It set up barbed wire fences around others and placed surveillance towers to counter any retaliatory attack linked to the EU's measure.

The NNA added that UNIFIL reduced its patrols in the South, except those it carries out with the Lebanese army.

The news agency noted a lack of any UNIFIL patrols in southern border villages, especially Bint Jbeil, Ainata, and al-Tairy.

On Monday, 28 EU foreign ministers unanimously voted to blacklist Hizbullah's military wing.

To get the required agreement of all 28 EU member states, ministers had to overcome reservations in some members that the move would further destabilize Lebanon, where Hizbullah plays a key role in politics.

Accordingly, EU political and economic ties with Lebanon will be fully maintained in a delicate balancing act.

UNIFIL patrols had been the target of various unclaimed roadside bomb attacks in the past, the last of which took place in 2011.

There have been constant fears that the UNIFIL force stationed in the south of the country would be an easy target should the unrest in Syria reach Lebanon.

On Sunday, Turkey's Anatolia news agency reported that Hizbullah members intercepted a Spanish UNIFIL patrol in the South and accused it of taking pictures of a house belonging to a member of the party who was killed in Syria, before army units intervened and resolved the dispute.

Spain currently commands the 12,100-strong UNIFIL force, which was founded in 1978 and expanded after a 2006 war between Israel and Hizbullah.

France has one of the largest contingents with 1,300 soldiers.

In July 2011, six French UNIFIL troops were wounded, one of them seriously, in the southern coastal town of Sidon, in an attack similar to Friday's. Earlier that year, six Italian peacekeepers were wounded in Sidon, also in a roadside bombing.

Three Spanish and three Colombian peacekeepers were killed in June 2007 when a booby-trapped car exploded as their patrol vehicle drove by.

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