JERUSALEM (Sep. 29)
Israel hailed the announcement Thursday that the United Nations peacekeeping forces were awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
“Even more than a prize for existing achievements, this is a testimony of the yearning for peace and understanding,” the Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The Nobel committee said in Oslo that the 10,000-troop peacekeeping forces were chosen for voluntarily taking on “a demanding and hazardous service in the cause of peace.”
U.N. forces are now on patrol in seven trouble spots worldwide, including Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf and Lebanon.
The multinational United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, or UNIFIL, is headquartered at Nakoura on the Lebanese side of the frontier.
UNIFIL consists of 5,700 soldiers drawn from nearly a dozen countries, including 850 from Norway, where the Peace Prize was announced Thursday.
UNIFIL was established following the first major Israeli incursion into southern Lebanon, known as the “Litani Campaign,” in 1978.
Its mission was to separate the contending forces in Lebanon and prevent terrorist infiltration into Israel.
But there was friction from the outset, with the Israel Defense Force charging that UNIFIL was not stopping Palestine Liberation Organization infiltrators, but merely taking weapons away from suspected terrorists headed toward the Israeli border and returning them soon afterwards.
Since its establishment by the U.N. Security Council 10 years ago, 156 UNIFIL soldiers have been killed there, most of them in drunk driving accidents rather than in peacekeeping-related incidents.
U.N. peacekeeping and observer forces are also stationed in the Golan Heights, Cyprus and Kashmir.