On Wednesday (Aug. 4) UNIFIL issued an official statement supporting IDF (Zahal) claims that LAF forces shot Israeli soldiers operating within Israeli territory, thus violating the internationally recognized Blue Line

Date: 04/08/2010, 4:31 PM     Author: Elana Kieffer

Originally established in March 1978 by the UN Security Council, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has adjusted its scope of operations and enhanced its original mandate, but has remained the peacekeeping force along the Israeli-Lebanon border for over thirty years.

Following the Second Lebanon War, UN Security Council Resolution 1701 was approved in August 2006, and called for a complete ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah. In addition to calling for the disarmament of Hezbollah, this resolution expanded the UNIFIL mandate, so that the peacekeeping force would now be responsible for monitoring the cessation of hostilities; for supporting LAF deployment concurrent with IDF (Zahal) withdrawal; for coordinating activities with the Israeli and Lebanese governments; for assisting in the transfer of humanitarian aid to civilian populations; for assisting the LAF in establishing a zone between the Blue Line and the Litani River free of armed personnel or weapons aside from those belonging to LAF and UNIFIL forces; and for assisting the Lebanese government in securing its borders against unauthorized entry of weapons.

Following the shooting incident which took place on Tuesday (Aug. 3) along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, the UNIFIL force stationed in the region has issued official statements specifying that the IDF (Zahal) soldiers who were shot while pruning a tree were in fact within Israeli territory. According to the statement, “the trees being cut by the IDF (Zahal) are located south of the Blue Line on the Israeli side.”

The official UNIFIL statement describes Lebanese and Israeli reservations which were voiced in 2000 when the Blue Line was identified as the line of withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon. “However,” it continues, “both Lebanon and Israel confirmed to the UN Secretary General that, notwithstanding their reservations, identifying the Line was solely the responsibility of the United Nations and that they will respect the Line as identified. The UN position is that the Blue Line must be respected in its entirety by all parties. “

UNIFIL is in contact with both the parties to keep the situation under control and to ensure that there is no violation of the Blue Line in this area.

In an attempt to keep the current situation under control and to prevent any further violations of the Blue Line, UNIFIL Force Commander, Maj. Gen. Alberto Asarta Cuevas has called an “extraordinary tripartite meeting” with Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and IDF (Zahal) officials. The meeting is scheduled to take place Wednesday evening (Aug. 4) in the Ras Al Naqoura UN post in southern Lebanon. The meeting will “address the serious situation that developed in the last two days” and will attempt to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.