NATIONAL NEWS

UN demands that Lebanon’s forces and Hezbollah militants allow unannounced UN peacekeeping patrols

Aug 31, 2023, 8:45 AM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council approved a resolution Thursday demanding that the Lebanese military and Hezbollah stop blocking the movement of the U.N. peacekeeping force and guarantee its freedom to operate, “including by allowing announced and unannounced patrols.”

Lebanese officials had pushed to remove a provision in the resolution, first introduced last year, that allows the peacekeepers to patrol without giving prior notice to the Lebanese army.

Hassan Nasrallah, head of the Lebanese militant group and political party Hezbollah, said in a speech Monday that the provision is a violation of Lebanese sovereignty, and that the United States wants the U.N. peacekeeping force “to be spies for the Israelis.”

But the council ignored the request and voted 13-0 with Russia and China abstaining, strengthening last year’s text and reaffirming that under the agreement between the United Nations and the Lebanese government, the peacekeeping force known as UNIFIL “does not require prior authorization or permission to undertake its mandated tasks.”

Israel has repeatedly accused Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran, of impeding UNIFIL peacekeepers from carrying out their mandate. Hezbollah battled Israel to a stalemate in a month-long war in 2006, and in 2019 Israel destroyed a series of what it said were attack tunnels dug under the border by Hezbollah.

UNIFIL was created to oversee the withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon after a 1978 invasion. The mission was expanded after the 2006 war so peacekeepers could deploy along the Lebanon-Israel border to help Lebanese troops extend their authority into their country’s south for the first time in decades. That resolution also called for a full cessation of Israeli-Hezbollah hostilities, which has not happened.

Nasrallah said people living in south Lebanon, where Hezbollah has its center of support and military operations, “will not allow a decision to be implemented despite the Lebanese government’s rejection of it,” although he gave the caveat that they “would not use weapons” against UNIFIL forces.

Last year, a group of armed local residents ambushed a UNIFIL convoy and opened fire, killing an Irish peacekeeper. In June, Lebanon’s military tribunal charged five men with the killing, with a judicial official alleging that all five were linked with Hezbollah. The group has publicly denied any role in the killing.

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Associated Press writer Abby Sewell contributed to this report from Beirut

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UN demands that Lebanon’s forces and Hezbollah militants allow unannounced UN peacekeeping patrols