United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon

United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, or UNIFIL, was created by the United Nations, with the adoption of Security Council Resolution 425 and 426 on March 19, 1978, to confirm Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, restore international peace and security, and help the Government of Lebanon restore its effective authority in the area.cite web
url = http://untreaty.un.org/cod/repertory/art98/english/rep_supp5_vol5-art98_e.pdf#pagemode=none
title = Extracts relating to Article 98 of the Charter of the United Nations: Supplement No 5 (1970 - 1978)
accessdate = 2006-08-06
format = PDF
work = Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs
publisher = United Nations
pages = §275–279
language =
archiveurl =
archivedate =
] The first UNIFIL troops were deployed in the area on March 23, 1978; these troops were reassigned from other UN peacekeeping operations in the area (namely the United Nations Emergency Force and the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force Zone).

Prior to the 1982 Lebanon War on 2 January 1982, in which two Ghanaian soldiers guarding a UNIFIL position were attacked by unidentified persons and one of the soldiers was shot and subsequently died. [ [http://domino.un.org/unispal.nsf/9a798adbf322aff38525617b006d88d7/687deff0fe05590a85257019006e4036!OpenDocument UN Doc S/15194] of 10 June 1982 "Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon"] During the 1982 Lebanon War, UN positions were overrun, primarily by the "de facto" forces under Saad Haddad. These were the indigenous Lebanese forces supported by the IDF.cite web
url = http://untreaty.un.org/cod/repertory/art98/english/rep_supp6_vol6-art98_e.pdf
title = Extracts relating to Article 98 of the Charter of the United Nations: Supplement No 6 (1979 - 1984)
accessdate = 2006-08-06
format = PDF
work = Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs
publisher = United Nations
pages = §185–§199
language =
archiveurl =
archivedate =
] During the occupation, UNIFIL's function was mainly to provide humanitarian aid. Beginning in 1985, Israel scaled back its permanent positions in Lebanon, although this process was punctuated by brief invasions and bombings, as in Operation Accountability in 1993 and Operation Grapes of Wrath in 1996. In 1999, Israel undertook a withdrawal, which concluded in 2000 and enabled UNIFIL to resume its military tasks. The Lebanese government claims that the Shebaa farms area is Lebanese territory, although the UN considers it to be Syrian territory under Israeli military occupation. They contend that this dispute gives continued legal sanction to armed anti-Israeli groups in Lebanon (though the UN has officially certified that Israel has fully withdrawn from all areas it occupied after 1973).

UNIFIL's current mandate expires on August 31, 2009.UN document |docid=S-RES-1832(2008) |type=Resolution |body=Security Council |year=2008 |resolution_number=1832 |highlight=rect_218,924_802,962 |page=1 |accessdate=2008-08-29|date=27 August 2008]


UNIFIL is tasked with achieving the following objectives:
*Confirm the withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon
*Restore international peace and security
*Assist the Government of Lebanon in ensuring the return of its effective authority in the area

Mandating resolutions by the United Nations:
*January 31, 2006: United Nations Security Council Resolution 1655 [United Nations [http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2006/sc8625.doc.htm Security Council extends UN force in Lebanon until 31 July, unanimously adopting Resolution 1655 (2006)] Retrieved on 2006-08-12]
*July 31, 2006: United Nations Security Council Resolution 1697 [ United Nations [http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2006/sc8793.doc.htm Security Council extends United Nations force in Lebanon, unanimously adopting Resolution 1697 (2006)] Retrieved on 2006-08-12]
*August 11, 2006: United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 [United Nations [http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2006/sc8808.doc.htm Security Council calls for end to hostilities between Hizbollah, Israel, unanimously adopting Resolution 1701 (2006)] Retrieved on 2006-08-12]

Post-2006 war operations

UNIFIL is currently deployed in Southern Lebanon (south of the Litani River) and primarily along the United Nations-drawn Blue Line, which is the border between Israel and Lebanon. The force's activities have centered around monitoring military activity between Hezbollah and the Israeli Defense Forces with the aim of reducing tensions and allaying tension along the border. UNIFIL has also played an important role in clearing landmines, assisting displaced persons and providing humanitarian assistance to civilians in the underdeveloped region of Southern Lebanon. Under UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which passed as a result of the 2006 Lebanon War, its mandate and rules of engagement changed. The mandate changed to allow up to 15,000 personnel in order to assist the Lebanese Armed Forces in deploying in Southern Lebanon to implement the Lebanese government's sovereignty. The rules of engagement changed to allow the troops to open fire in certain cases: mostly in cases of self-defense but also in order to protect civilians, UN personnel and facilities. [http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unifil/PS3oct.pdf] The new resolution states that UNIFIL can “take all the necessary action in areas of deployment of its forces, and as it deems with its capabilities, to ensure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind.” [cite web |url=http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,251-2309181,00.html |publisher=The Times |author=James Bone and Richard Beeston |title=After 31 days of fighting, UN votes for plan to bring peace to Lebanon |date=2006-08-21 |accessdate=2008-05-23] On August 27, 2006, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that UNIFIL would not intercept arms shipments from Syria, unless requested to do so by Lebanon. [cite web |url=http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/1527391/UN-will-not-stop-Syria-sending-weapons-to-Lebanon.html |title=UN will not stop Syria sending weapons to Lebanon |publisher=The Daily Telegraph |author=Harry De Quetteville and Michael Hirst |date=2006-08-27 |accessdate=2008-05-23]

Maritime Task Force

After the 2006 Lebanon War, the UNIFIL Maritime Task Force (MTF) was established to assist the Lebanese Naval Forces in preventing the smuggling of illegal shipments in general and armament shipments in particular. With its establishment in October 2006, the force was lead by the German Navy which was also the major contributor to the force. [cite web |url=http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unifil/pr065.pdf |title=UNIFIL Maritime Task Force is operational |publisher=UNIFIL |date=2006-10-16 |accessdate=2008-05-24|format=PDF] The Germans lead the MTF up until February 29, 2008 when they passed control over to EUROMARFOR - a force made up of ships from Portugal, Spain, Italy and France (of which the latter three countries sent vessels to the force in Lebanon). [cite web |url=http://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/diplo/en/Infoservice/Presse/Meldungen/2008/080228-UNIFIL.html |title=Germany passes command of UNIFIL maritime components to European Maritime Force |publisher=German Foreign Office |date=2008-02-28 |accessdate=2008-05-24] cite web |url=http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unifil/pr109e.pdf |title=UNIFIL Maritime Task Force Changes Command |publisher=UNIFIL |date=2008-02-29 |accessdate=2008-05-24|format=PDF] As of May 2008, the German Navy is still the biggest contributor to the UNIFIL MTF sending four vessels. These four vessels are complemented by two Italian, two Greek, one French, one Spanish and one Turkish vessel to comprise the 11-vessel UNIFIL Maritime Task Force.


As of April 30, 2008, UNIFIL employs 12,341 military personnel, supported by some 307 international civilian and 606 local civilian staff [The civilian staff statistics are only updated as of February 29, 2008] and it is headed by Italian Force Commander Major-General Claudio Graziano.cite web |url=http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unifil/facts.html |title=Lebanon - UNIFIL - Facts and Figures |publisher=United Nations]

To date UNIFIL has suffered 272 fatalities: 261 troops, two military observers, five international civilian staff, and four local staff.

Debate over UNIFIL presence and neutrality

UNIFIL has fallen out of favour with both Israel and Hezbollah. Israel has criticized the force for, amongst other things, maintaining a dialogue with Hezbollah, which it views as a terrorist organization, for treating Israeli and Lebanese (and more specifically, Hezbollah) violations of security council resolution 1701 equally, while Israel views its violations of Lebanese airspace as less severe than Lebanese violations including crossings of the blue line and rocket launchings. UNIFIL was accused of complicity in the fatal abduction of IDF soldiers in October 2000, and Israel further blamed it for obstructing its investigation by denying the existence of and then once the existence was leaked, refusing to supply videos of the attack for several months. [CNN, 3 August 2001 [http://archives.cnn.com/2001/WORLD/meast/08/03/un.lebanon.report/index.html U.N. report: Kidnapped Israeli soldiers may be dead] ] [Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (for the period from 21 July 2004 to 20 January 2005) [http://www.un.org/Docs/journal/asp/ws.asp?m=S/2005/36 Document S/2005/36] ]

Prior to the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict of July 2006, Israel had been lobbying for UNIFIL to either take a more active role vis-a-vis Hezbollah (for example, preventing Hezbollah from stationing near UNIFIL posts to fire at the IDF and into northern Israel) or to step out of the region (thereby voiding the Lebanese government’s excuse for not deploying Lebanese Armed Forces along the border). [Haaretz [http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/objects/pages/PrintArticleEn.jhtml?itemNo=623427 Israel accuses UN of collaborating with Hezbollah] Retrieved 2006-10-28]

UNIFIL also came under criticism during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict for broadcasting detailed reports of Israeli troop movements on their website which "could have exposed Israeli soldiers to grave danger", while making no such reports about Hezbollah. [cite news|url=http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/012/622bqwjn.asp|publisher=Weekly Standard|author=Lori Lowenthal Marcus|title=What did you do in the war, UNIFIL?|date=09/04/2006]

Hezbollah supporters have accused UNIFIL of siding with Israel, especially since the passage of Resolution 1701 which they view as one-sided. On October 16, 2006 Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah declared that the UN force had “come to protect Israel, not Lebanon”.

The participation of Turkish troops in the reinforced UNIFIL in 2006 has also been controversial in Lebanon, where the Armenian community has vigorously protested against it.

Conflict in 2006

According to UNIFIL press releases, there have been dozens of such incidents of UN posts coming under fire during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict. [United Nations [http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unifil/unifilpress.htm UNIFIL press releases] ] In his 21 July 2006 report about the UNIFIL activities 21 January-18 July 2006, the UN Secretary-General stated that "Some Hezbollah positions remained in close proximity to United Nations positions, especially in the Hula area, posing a significant security risk to United Nations personnel and equipment." [See paragraph 28 in [http://www.un.org/Docs/journal/asp/ws.asp?m=S/2006/560 Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (S/2006/560)] Accessed 31 July 2006]

Combat-related incidents

*During a day in which Hezbollah opened small arms fire at a UNIFIL convoy, four soldiers from the Ghanaian battalion were lightly injured after an Israeli tank shell hit a UNIFIL position during the fighting in southern Lebanon on 24 July 2006. [http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unifil/pr09.pdf UNIFIL Press Release, Naqoura, 25 July 2006]
*Shrapnel from tank shells fired by the IDF seriously wounded an Indian soldier on 16 July 2006 [http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unifil/pr01.pdf UNIFIL Press Release, Naqoura, 17 July 2006]
*On 25 July 2006 four UNTSO observers from Austria, Canada, China and Finland were killed when an Israeli aerial bomb struck an OGL patrol base near Khiam in southern Lebanon. According to the UN, the Israelis claimed to be responding to "Hezbollah fire from that vicinity" and the four had taken shelter in a bunker under the post. The area around the site was shelled a total of 14 times by Israeli artillery [UNIFIL [http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unifil/pr010.pdf Untitled Press Release 26 July 2006] ] throughout the day despite warning calls made by UN personnel to the IDF. [cite web |url=http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/1524958/UN-%27urged-Israelis-to-hold-fire-10-times-before-post-was-hit%27.html |author=Tim Butcher |title=UN 'urged Israelis to hold fire 10 times before post was hit' |publisher=The Daily Telegraph |date=2006-07-27 |accessdate=2008-05-23] Later, a rescue team was also shelled as it tried to clear the rubble. [cite web |url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/5215366.stm |publisher=BBC News |title=Israeli bomb kills UN observers |date=2006-07-26 |accessdate=2008-05-23]


Following the cease-fire, the UNIFIL will receive vast reinforcement, up to 15 000 men, and heavy equipment. France is committed to increase her complement from 400 to 2 000 men and send Leclerc heavy tanks and AMX 30 AuF1 self-propelled artillery [http://www.lemonde.fr/web/article/0,1-0%402-734511,36-807530%4051-796255,0.html] , in addition to the forces deployed in Opération Baliste. Italy will send 3000 troops. [http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L29199082.htm] Qatar will send between 200 and 300 troops. [http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/09/04/mideast.qatar/index.html]

A naval component of UNIFIL is being set up to assist the Lebanese Navy preventing arms proliferation to Hezbollah. This force is under the command of a German admiral with the majority of vessels being provided by the German Navy.

Indonesian contingent has received 12 VAB(Véhicule de l'Avant Blindé) on February 17 2007, as the part of the second wave of shipment from the agreement between the French and Indonesian governments. Amongst the equipments sent with the second wave of VABs are 10 tool boxes (pioneering equipment), 10 armored vehicle radio communications unit, HMG (Heavy Machine Gun) shooter shield, and 40 water jerrycans. [http://www.tniad.mil.id/garuda/lbnranpur.php]

Incidents involving Israeli planes

On the 3 October 2006, an Israeli fighter penetrated the 2-nautical mile defence perimeter of the French frigate "Courbet", triggering a diplomatic incident. Israel apologised after official protests from the French government [http://www.lemonde.fr/web/article/0,1-0%402-3218,36-828946%4051-759824,0.html] [http://news.monstersandcritics.com/middleeast/article_1214938.php/No_aggression_intended_Israel_says_after_German_ship_incident] .

On 24 October, six Israeli F-16's flew over a German vessel patrolling off Israel's coast just south of the Lebanese border. The German Defence Ministry said that the planes had given off infrared decoys and one of the aircraft had fired two shots into the air, which had not been specifically aimed. The Israeli military said that a German helicopter took off from the vessel without having coordinated this with Israel, and denied vehemently having fired any shots at the vessel and said "as of now" it also had no knowledge of the jets launching flares over it. Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz telephoned his German counterpart Franz Josef Jung to clarify that 'Israel has no intention to carry out any aggressive actions' against the German peacekeeping forces in Lebanon, who are there as part of UNIFIL to enforce an arms embargo against Hezbollah. Germany confirmed the consultations, and that both sides were interested in maintaining good cooperation. [cite news|url=http://www.teluguportal.net/modules/news/article.php?storyid=18958|title=Germany, Israel confirm naval vessel-planes incident|date=200628 October|publisher=Telugu Portal] [cite news|url=http://news.monstersandcritics.com/middleeast/article_1214671.php/Germany_Israel_confirm_naval_vessel-planes_incident|title=Germany, Israel confirm naval vessel-planes incident|date=200628 October|publisher=Middle East News] [cite news|url=http://story.malaysiasun.com/index.php/ct/9/cid/b8de8e630faf3631/id/ba4623e8cf1e387d/|title=Israel denies firing shots at German ship|date=200628 October|publisher=Ynetnews]

On 31 October 2006, eight Israeli F-15s flew over many areas of Lebanon, including Beirut. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6101448.stm Israeli jets fly low over Beirut] , "BBC"] [ [http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20061031/ts_nm/mideast_lebanon_planes_dc Israeli warplanes fly low over Beirut, suburbs] , "Reuters"] The IAF jets also flew over a French peacekeeper position in Lebanon. According to the French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, the planes came in at what was interpreted as an attack formation, and the peacekeepers were "seconds away" from firing at the jets. [ [http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/785914.html IDF checking French claim its UN troops almost fired at IAF jets] , "AP" in "Haaretz"]

Post-conflict situation

On 24 June 2007, six UNIFIL soldiers (three Colombians and three Spaniards) were killed after their vehicle was hit by an explosive device; two others (both Spanish) were injured in the incident. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6235224.stm Lebanon blast kills UN soldiers] ] No group has yet admitted responsibility. The Israeli military believed the attack to be the work of al-Qaeda/Global Jihad members. [ [http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?apage=1&cid=1182409630495&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull Al-Qaida suspected in attack that killed 5 UNIFIL troops] ] On January 8, 2008 a roadside bomb injured two Irish UNIFIL soldiers 35km south of Beirut. [cite web |url=http://www.zawya.com/Story.cfm/sidDS170308_dsart4/SecMain/pagHomepage/chnAll%20Regional%20News/obj2A17E941-F5E0-11D4-867D00D0B74A0D7C/ |title=Indonesia to dispatch 90 military police to join countrymen in UNIFIL |author=Mohammed Zaatari |publisher=The Daily Star (Lebanon) |date=2008-03-17 |accessdate=2008-04-05] On March 30, 2008 the UNIFIL patrol, following a suspicious pickup truck that was towing a trailer in the western sector of UNIFIL's area of operations, was blocked by two other vehicles with five armed persons. According to the UNIFIL spokeswoman Yasmina Bouzianne, the patrol challenged the armed people who left the area after about three minutes before a positive identification could be made. [The Daily Star [http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=1&categ_id=1&article_id=91396 UNIFIL confirms incident with gunmen] accessed April 24, 2008] The Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Ambassador Dan Carmon, met with UNIFIL commander, Maj.-Gen. Claudio Graziano, on 15 August 2008, after Israel was accused of unilaterally violating United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 by the almost daily overflights of Lebanese airspace, the continued occupation of the village of Ghajar and Israel's refusal to submit maps of areas on which it dropped cluster munitions during the 2006 Lebanese war. [ [http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1012134.html Ha'aretz] 16 August 2008, Israeli envoy meets UNIFIL chief over praise for Hezbollah, censure for Israel By Shlomo Shamire]

Countries involved

The following countries have either committed troops, are currently active in UNIFIL, or have offered support to UNIFIL in some way. Countries in bold were part of the original UNIFIL force.

Commanders of the Maritime Task Force


To date, UNIFIL has suffered 258 fatalities: 249 military personnel, 2 military observers, 3 international civilian staff, and 4 local staff. [http://justice4lebanon.wordpress.com/2007/12/13/the-united-nations-interim-force-in-lebanon-unifil/]


*"UNIFIL, I'm afraid, is a joke. They’ve been there for 26 years and since then, there have been so many skirmishes [along the border] ." - former Israeli ambassador Itamar Rabinovich, 20 July 2006 [NPR.org [http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5567793 Mass Exodus Continues as Lebanon Seeks Aid] ]

*"We didn’t like very much UNIFIL which was very useless and very helpless. Look what happened. Did you hear of any particular efforts of the United Nations UNIFIL force in the south of Lebanon to prevent the attacks against Israel in the first place. So they were not useful and that is why we were unhappy with them." Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, August 2, 2006 [Times Online (UK) [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-2296832,00.html The Times interview with Ehud Olmert: full transcript] Accessed August 3, 2006]

*" UNIFIL came here in 1978. We were, because at that time there was no Hezbollah here, accused of being sympathetic to Palestinians. A peacekeeping force does not come here with pre-set enemies. There is no enemy [inaudible] in a peacekeeping force. UNIFIL is a peacekeeping force. It's not an Israeli combat force or an anti-terror force, as they would like it to be. As long as we don't serve their direct interests, they are going to denigrate it as much as they can." Timur Goksel, former spokesman of the UNIFIL, July 26, 2006 [Democracy Now!, [http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=06/07/26/147212 "Kofi Annan Says Israel's Fatal Attack on UN Force in Lebanon was "Apparently Deliberate"; Longtime UN Official Says Israel Knew Site Was UN Base"] ]


ee also

* Bregman, Ahron (2002). "Israel's Wars: A History Since 1947". London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-28716-2
* Operation Litani
* Lebanese Civil War
* South Lebanon conflict
* 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict
* 1996 shelling of Qana


*GlobalSecurity.org [http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/lebanon.htm Lebanon]

External links

* [http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unifil/mandate.html UNIFIL - UN official mandate]
* [http://www.un.org/Depts/Cartographic/map/dpko/unifil.pdf UNIFIL Deployment Map]

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