‘Last warning for Lebanon’: Israel welcomes UNIFIL’s expanded mandate

August 30, 2020 by Aryeh Savir - TPS
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The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Friday adopted a resolution to extend the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon’s (UNIFIL) mandate with an expansion of its abilities to fully access and monitor areas in which Hezbollah operates.

nited Nations flag over the offices of UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the near east, in Jerusalem. Jerusalem, Jun 13, 2019. Photo by Esty Dziubov/TPS

Resolution 2539, which was unanimously supported by the 15-member council, includes a provision for the strengthening of the reporting mechanism, as well as a vehement condemnation of attempts to limit UNIFIL’s freedom of movement.

It requires UN Secretary-General António Guterres to consolidate a detailed program within two months for the implementation of the report’s recommendations for the streamlining of UNIFIL, including the strengthening of the tripartite mechanism between UNIFIL, the IDF, and the Lebanese Armed Forces, and the institutionalization of the reporting mechanism for incidents in which violence is employed against UNIFIL soldiers.

The resolution also condemns events of the past year in which Hezbollah breached UNSCR 1701, and issues a particularly scathing condemnation of incidents in which UNIFIL’s operations were disrupted.

It also calls on the Lebanese government to quickly provide full access to suspicious sites north of the Blue Line on Israel’s border.

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan said that the resolution comes “as a last warning for the Government of Lebanon. If Hezbollah continues to turn southern Lebanon into a base for its terrorist activity under UNIFIL’s nose, the Government of Lebanon will be held responsible and will bear full responsibility for any escalation of tensions or the grave consequences of such actions.”

Erdan further warned that “Israel will not allow terrorist attacks to emanate from Lebanese territory and will respond with force to any such crime. The Government of Lebanon is responsible for what transpires within its territory.”

In the upcoming months, Israel will “closely watch how UNIFIL’s renewed mandate is implemented and determine whether there is a justification for the force’s presence,” he said.

In recent weeks, the US and Israel led a joint diplomatic effort to strengthen the force’s authority in the wake of Hezbollah terrorist activity.

Both countries maintain that the UNIFIL, in its current mandate, is ineffective. Its mandate has twice been reformulated in the past.

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi thanked the US for “leading the political campaign that brought about a resolution to extend UNIFIL’s mandate, which includes provisions that will enable UNIFIL to fulfill its role in a more effective manner, even if room for improvement remains.”

“The security incidents that have taken place along the northern border over the past several days clearly illustrate above all else the need for a strong and effective UNIFIL,” he underscored.

Most recently, Hezbollah terrorists on Tuesday night fired at an IDF post on the northern border. The IDF bombed Hezbollah targets in response.

“The true test now will lie in the readiness of the Lebanese government and UNIFIL to implement all of the requirements of the resolution. Israel will continue to closely monitor its practical implementation,” he stated.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres released a report in November 2019 which accused the Hezbollah terror organization of impeding the work of the UN’s peacekeeping force in Lebanon, a “growing danger presented by armed groups operating outside of the Lebanese government’s control” in violation of UN Resolution 1701.

Resolution 1701 was adopted by the Security Council and was intended to resolve the 2006 Second Lebanon War. It demands Hezbollah retreat northward to the Blue Line, and that the government of Lebanon and the UNIFIL deploy their forces in the south. Israel has repeatedly charged that Hezbollah violated the resolution on many occasions.

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