Friday, September 1, 2023

Hezbollah calls for limitations on UN peacekeepers in Lebanon


Hezbollah Leader Warns Against Renewing UN Peacekeeping Force Mandate in Lebanon

The head of Lebanon’s powerful Shiite armed group, Hezbollah, has issued a warning against renewing the mandate of the United Nations peacekeeping force in the country’s south. The mandate of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is set to expire on Thursday, and its renewal is being discussed by the Security Council.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah criticized the previous extension of UNIFIL’s mandate last year, calling it a violation of Lebanese sovereignty. He reiterated his concerns during a televised speech on Monday, questioning the presence of a foreign armed force on Lebanese territory without the authorization or coordination with the Lebanese government and army.

Under the modified mandate, UNIFIL is allowed to conduct its operations independently, according to a UN resolution. However, Lebanon’s government has objected to the absence of a stipulation that requires coordination between UNIFIL and the Lebanese army.

Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Abdallah Bouhabib recently met with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in New York to convey Lebanon’s position on the matter. The country is urging for a reconsideration of the terms of UNIFIL’s mandate.

UNIFIL was initially deployed over four decades ago to monitor the withdrawal of Israeli forces after their invasion of Lebanon in response to a Palestinian attack. The peacekeeping force was strengthened in 2006 following a 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah. With more than 10,000 troops and naval personnel, UNIFIL is responsible for monitoring the ceasefire between the two sides.

Despite the ceasefire, Israel and Lebanon remain technically at war. The area of operations for UNIFIL includes south Lebanon, which is considered a Hezbollah stronghold. In December, an Irish soldier with UNIFIL was killed and three others were wounded when their convoy came under fire near the Israeli border. Hezbollah denied involvement in the incident and later handed over a man suspected of being the main suspect to Lebanese authorities.

Hezbollah, considered a “terrorist” organization by many Western governments, has retained its armed capabilities since Lebanon’s civil war from 1975 to 1990. It is also a significant player in Lebanese politics.

The renewal of UNIFIL’s mandate is a contentious issue for Lebanon, with concerns about the violation of sovereignty and the absence of coordination between the peacekeeping force and the Lebanese army. Nasrallah’s warning reflects the ongoing tensions and complexities surrounding the presence of foreign forces in Lebanon.

The Security Council is scheduled to meet on Wednesday to discuss the extension of UNIFIL’s mandate. It remains to be seen whether Lebanon’s objections will be taken into account and if any modifications will be made to address their concerns.

As the situation unfolds, it is crucial for all parties involved to prioritize dialogue and find a mutually agreeable solution. The stability and security of Lebanon, as well as the region, depend on effective coordination and cooperation between all stakeholders.

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