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Israel pushes for changes in UN's Lebanon peacekeeping force

Israel and Hezbollah fought in a deadly war in 2006 [Getty]

Date of publication: 20 August, 2020

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Israel is allegedly working with UN Security Council members to push for tough changes in the way the peacekeeping force deals with the Hezbollah, reports said.
As the United Nations prepares to renew the mandate of its peacekeeping operation in southern Lebanon, Israel is working with Security Council members to push for tough changes in the way the force deals with the Hezbollah, Israeli officials said on Wednesday.

Israeli diplomatic and military officials say the force, known as UNIFIL, has been largely ineffective and see the upcoming vote on extending its mandate as an opportunity to make reforms.

UNIFIL was originally created to oversee the withdrawal of Israeli troops after a 1978 invasion. The mission was expanded in Lebanon under a UN-brokered ceasefire after a month-long war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006.

Alon Bar, a senior Israeli diplomat, said the force has failed in two key responsibilities - helping the Lebanese government and army extend their authority in southern Lebanon and ridding the south of Hezbollah weapons and forces.

Israel accuses Hezbollah of blocking UNIFIL from conducting proper inspections and says the UN has done a poor job of reporting violations by the Iranian-backed group, giving an impression that the situation is better than it really is.

He said Israel is demanding that UNIFIL be given greater access to suspicious sites, and that the force provide more accurate and detailed reports about Hezbollah’s activities to the Security Council.

Read also: Lebanon president says 'impossible' that Beirut port blast was caused by Hezbollah arms

Although Israel is not a member of the council, he said the country has been working with its close ally, the United States, as well as other council members including France, Germany and Britain. UNIFIL's current mandate expires Aug. 31.

"We made it clear that this time we insist that at least some of the changes will be introduced and that this is unacceptable for us to continue with the situation as it is," said Bar, the Foreign Ministry’s deputy director general for the UN and international organisations.

Brig. Gen. Efraim Defrin, head of the Israeli army’s international cooperation unit, said relations with UNIFIL are good, but that the force’s "hands are tied" and it must do a better job.

Both officials acknowledged the recent blast in Beirut has added to Lebanon’s instability, but said that made it even more critical to improve UNIFIL.

"You are looking at this way as an opportunity to force a change," Defrin said.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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