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International Peacekeepers Day: UNIFIL’s role questioned amid Israel-Hezbollah conflict

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International Peacekeepers Day: UNIFIL’s role questioned amid Israel-Hezbollah conflict



As international actors debate the legitimacy of Israel’s operation in Gaza, the war on Israel’s northern front rages on. Deaths from the Israel-Hezbollah conflict are continuing to rise, and over 100,000 Israelis are still evacuated from their homes in northern Israel, leading some to question the efficacy of the UN peacekeeper force meant to maintain security in southern Lebanon.

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After the Israeli army finished a military operation against the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Lebanon in 1978, the UN established a temporary peacekeeping force known as the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL). The body was meant to restore international peace and security and to assist Lebanon’s government and army in restoring control of the border with Israel.

Israel’s 1978 invasion pushed the PLO north of the Litani River, about 18 miles from the border, in order to limit attacks against Israel. Despite the establishment of UNIFIL as a peacekeeper force, Israel returned to Lebanon in 1982. In 2006, another conflict broke out between Israel and Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shiite group with ties to Iran.

After 34 days of fighting between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006, the UN brokered a cease-fire. Under the agreement, UN Security Council Resolution 1701, Israel and Hezbollah agreed to cease hostilities, and UNIFIL was tasked with ensuring that no armed groups other than itself and the Lebanese army operated south of the Litani River.

Today, UNIFIL comprises more than 10,000 soldiers from 49 nations. In addition to monitoring the border, the organization also provides humanitarian assistance to civilians affected by the exchange of fire in southern Lebanon.

UNIFIL peacekeepers from the Republic of Korea conduct a vehicle patrol in the vicinity of Tyre, south Lebanon, February 21, 2024. (credit: Pasqual GORRIZ/UN)

UNIFIL’s role pre-October 7

“Before Oct. 7, we were able to guarantee the overall stability of the southern border for years, and this was clearly a success,” Andrea Tenenti, spokesperson for the UNIFIL mission, told The Media Line. “We played an active role. In fact, we have helped the Lebanese army, starting from 2008, to regain control of the southern part of the country.”

Despite UNIFIL’s successes, Hezbollah has grown stronger in southern Lebanon since 2006, especially in the towns and villages along the 75-mile-long demarcation line, leading some to criticize UNIFIL as ineffective. Since Oct. 7, as constant clashes between Hezbollah and Israel have plagued southern Lebanon and northern Israel, those criticisms have grown louder.

“The UNIFIL mission started with very weak points and ended up being more a cease-fire resolution than a peacekeeping one,” Hanin Ghaddar, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute, told The Media Line. She noted that the forces mostly report violations.

“They do not possess the tools and permission from the UN to confiscate weapons or even arrest those affiliated with” Hezbollah, she said.

Tenenti characterized UNIFIL as “the only ones who can mediate properly” amid the rising tensions, noting that the group had arranged meetings between the Israeli and Lebanese armies.

UNIFIL does not only monitor the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel—at times, it finds itself caught up in that contact.  Among other incidents, a car bomb killed six UNIFIL personnel in 2007, and in October, two mortar shells of undetermined origin hit a UNIFIL base, injuring one peacekeeper.

“Hezbollah targets UNIFIL because they do not want another actor in the south,” Ghaddar explained. “It is never an accident when UNIFIL personnel is targeted because the militant group aims to send a message both to the countries that serve in these forces and to the UN: do not interfere with our activities in the southern part of the country.”

Avraham Levine, a speaker at the northern Israel-based Alma Research and Education Center, told The Media Line that Hezbollah has more control over UNIFIL than UNIFIL does over Hezbollah.

“There are areas where UNIFIL personnel cannot go to, and if they end up by mistake in Hezbollah’s territory, they are attacked on the spot, their vehicles are burnt, and sometimes they are even shot down,” he said.

Levine also said that Hezbollah uses UNIFIL bases for its military purposes.

“Both in 2006 and in further operations that Israel carried against Hezbollah, the militants used UNIFIL compounds as shields for their operations in order to stop Israel’s counterattacks against a UN base,” he said.

One of the rockets launched at Israel by Hezbollah in December originated just 20 yards from a UNIFIL compound.

Levine said that the Lebanese army’s lack of action to rein in Hezbollah relates to the Shia sympathies of many of the soldiers as well as the interest in avoiding another Lebanese civil war.

Describing both UNIFIL and the Lebanese army as ineffective deterrents to Hezbollah, he said that Israel may have to invade Lebanon once again.

“We cannot risk another Oct. 7 in the northern part of Israel since [Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan] Nasrallah publicly claimed his goal to invade the Galilee. Even if this scenario is not pleasant for both sides, we may need to stop Hezbollah by entering Lebanon as we did in the past,” he said.

In the event that a full-scale war between Israel and Hezbollah does break out, UNIFIL may be a target, Levine said. “Maybe this may push to reconsider its mission in the first place,” he speculated.





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Israel must target civilian infrastructure in Lebanon to pressure Hezbollah, IDSF head says

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Israel must target civilian infrastructure in Lebanon to pressure Hezbollah, IDSF head says



Israel Defense and Security Forum CEO Lt. Col. (res.) Yaron Buskila spoke recently with Yoav Minitz on Radio North 104.5FM and referred to the future of the conflict with the terrorist organization Hezbollah on the northern border.

Buskila stated, “The North is facing the issue of UAVs, which seems like a kind of Russian roulette. How can the security system deal with this.

“To explain why occasionally there are no sirens, Hezbollah learned to operate with UAVs at a low altitude close to the ground. Because of this, the UAV is not identified, and Hezbollah manages to operate them and attack before the Israeli detection and identification system operates. This has become a challenge for us, but we continue to face Hezbollah as we have in recent years in a symmetrical manner. For every attack they launch at us, we retaliate proportionally.

“This is not how to deal with a terror organization, certainly not at this stage. Hezbollah understands that we are in negotiations over the hostages, and they want to pressure the State of Israel. We must not play into their hands. This is exactly the time to take action against Hezbollah and Lebanon as a country and attack civilian infrastructures. Hezbollah is also subject to social and public pressure within Lebanon.”

Which infrastructures and targets are worth it for Israel to attack? 

“If we do not know how to attack such civilian infrastructures that the Lebanese society will put pressure on Hezbollah, we will not come out of this. We needed to escalate matters long ago. The economic interest they had with the gas agreement needs to be canceled immediately and transferred to our hands as one of the first steps in response to Hezbollah’s activities. The economy in Lebanon is so fragile that the last thing they need is escalation and entry into a war from Israel, which will destroy the Lebanese economy.

A Hezbollah flag flutters in the southern Lebanese village of Khiam, near the border with Israel, Lebanon July 28, 2020 (credit: REUTERS/AZIZ TAHER)

Buskila continued, “We are at war. Any target within Lebanon that causes pressure on Lebanese society is legitimate. It could be an airport, energy areas, and others. These are part of the steps taken in war, and we are at war. We are in a fateful year that will determine the future of the State of Israel in terms of security in the next 50 years. The sharper this war becomes and the more significant the achievements, the more peace we will acquire in the coming years.”

“The State of Israel and the security system are afraid to carry out attacks for fear that Hezbollah may achieve long-range targets, farther than Haifa and Hadera. As Ofer Shelah wrote in his book, The Courage to Win, even winning requires courage. It also requires the ability to absorb, but ultimately, whoever has endurance and ability and knows his right is the one who wins.”





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UN Rapporteur Albanese criticizes hostage rescue, shares conspiracy theories

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UN Rapporteur Albanese criticizes hostage rescue, shares conspiracy theories



UN Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territories Francesca Albanese criticized Israeli security forces for its successful hostage rescue operation on Saturday. 

Albanese wrote on social media on Saturday that while she was relieved that Shlomi Ziv, Andrey Kozlov, Almog Meir, and Noa Argamani had been “released,” the rescue “should not have come at the expense of at least 200 Palestinians, including children, killed and over 400 injured by Israel and allegedly foreign soldiers, while perfidiously hiding in an aid truck.”

Albanese appeared to reference rumors spread by Palestinian and anti-Israel sources that US special forces had aided in the operation. 

“Israel has used hostages to legitimize killing, injuring, maiming, starving and traumatizing Palestinians in Gaza,” asserted Albanese. “And while intensifying violence against Palestinians in the rest of the occupied territory and Israel.”

Criticizing Israel for its actions during the war

Albanese claimed that Israel could have freed all the hostages in a deal at the beginning of the war, but had “refused in order to continue to destroy Gaza and the Palestinians as a people.”

Francesca Albanese, UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, attends a press conference following a meeting with Egyptian delegations to discuss the situation in the Palestinian territories, amid the conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Cairo. April 25, 2024. (credit: REUTERS/AMR ABDALLAH DALSH)

“This is genocidal intent turned into action,” said the controversial UN Rapporteur. “Crystal clear.”

Israeli Foreign Ministry Deputy spokesperson attacked Albanese on X,  saying that her “unwavering support of Hamas and Palestinian civilian kidnappers of civilians is truly a piece of grotesque art.”





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Eyeing Iraq and Syra, the IDF is preparing to fight in Lebanon – analysis

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Eyeing Iraq and Syra, the IDF is preparing to fight in Lebanon – analysis



The cherry season is at its peak but there is little traffic in the orchards and the fruits are rotting on the branches.

Israelis, unlike every year, are avoiding a pilgrimage north to the self-harvesting orchards in Odem, Merom Golan, Kela, and Elrom. The winds of war gripped the Golan Heights this week with intensity.

Dozens of forest and pasture fires broke out in the northern plateau near Katzrin and up to the western slopes above Kibbutz Gadot.

Hezbollah has been hit in recent weeks by IDF operations. Their desire to respond, to take revenge burns inside them.

Therefore, they chose to increase the range of fire for military targets in the Golan Heights. This is how Hezbollah broadcasts that it is looking for revenge in addition to preparing the fighting space for the day when Israel will make a significant move in Lebanon.

Israeli soldiers from the Golani brigade take part in a military drill in the Golan Heights, northern Israel, May 22, 2024 (credit: MICHAEL GILADI/FLASH90)

Under new management

A month and a half ago, Col. Benny Kata assumed the position of commander of the 474th Brigade, the brigade that defends the Golan Heights area.

Ostensibly, he should have turned his attention to the east, towards Syria and even deeper into Iraq, but already in the process of taking over the role, he realized that he must also be ready for missiles and UAVs also from the northern theater in Lebanon.

In the weeks he has been in office, almost every day, Hezbollah fired rockets or launched anti-aircraft missiles into the Golan Heights from Lebanon.

80 percent of the forces in the Golan Heights are combat-reserve units. The previous times that the reserve army was in the Golan Heights in such numbers were during the Yom Kippur War and both the first and second Lebanon Wars.

The eastern border with Syria is a fake border. On the one hand, the Separation of Forces Agreement was maintained even during the civil war in Syria during the Arab Spring.

UNDOF forces, entrusted with maintaining the armistice agreement and the separation of forces, act with respectable assertiveness, unlike the UNIFIL forces on the Lebanese border. On the other hand, beneath the false silence, unrest is taking place. Even binoculars for viewing from a distance will not reveal what is taking place.

The Iranians managed to take control of considerable areas in Syria during the days of the civil war.

They sacrificed their lives to save the rule of Assad Jr. 

Thousands of Shiite Iranians migrated from northern and western Iran to Syria. In the world media, they are called “pro-Iranian militias”. In practice, they are Iranian fighters under the operation of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards.

“The Iranian proxy was in our eastern arena. We know what the capabilities of Iran and Hezbollah are, and they exist among these militias in Syria and in Iraq as well,” said one military official.

This is the reason why Col. Benny Kata and his soldiers work around the clock. On the one hand, the IDF is improving readiness in the Golan Heights, through more training and improving the means for both attacks and warning, as well as improving the line of fortifications and carrying out engineering operations.

The IDF says that the goal is to damage the capabilities of the Iranian militias deep in Syria and even in Iraq. To this end, the army was deployed not only on the Israeli side of the border but also in the security area, which is a section of hundreds of meters, defined as Israeli territory, but it is east of the perimeter fence.

According to foreign publications, the IDF operates every few days in much deeper ranges, both in the outskirts of Damascus, Homs, Quneitra and more.

“We are not evacuating the residents of the Golan. Our defense activity is in the space beyond the fence,” says a military official. But in the 747th division, they don’t take any risks after October 7.

Along with the offensive defense plans, they are strengthening rear defense systems, including refreshing and strengthening all the standby classes in the settlements. The IDF increased the classes, trained the fighters, and even provided combat equipment that would allow dealing with forces’ infiltration into the Golan Heights area.

The decision on whether to go for a ground maneuver in Lebanon may be made at the political level soon.

This is, of course, if we judge by the level of statements and threats heard in recent days. The IDF understands that such a move will open at least one more fighting front in the Golan.





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