NEW YORK (Jan. 13)
The United Nations Secretary General has issued a report in preparation for the upcoming debate on renewal of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon’s (UNIFIL) mandate which targets Israel as the major cause of the deteriorating security situation in southern Lebanon.
The report, prepared by UN Undersecretary General for Political Affairs Marrack Goulding referred to the situation in Lebanon and the refugee camp wars as only a secondary factor in the threats against UNIFIL soldiers.
The UN Security Council is scheduled to begin a debate on renewing the UNIFIL mandate on Thursday.
In the past six months, 10 UNIFIL soldiers were killed in hostilities and another 5 in accidents. Eight of the hostile deaths were attributed to “armed elements,” a common euphemism for the Hezbullah, according to the Israeli UN Mission.
Goulding’s report also conveyed accusations leveled by the Israeli-backed Christian militia, the South Lebanese Army (SLA), that UNIFIL permits Hezbullah to attack the SLA from the vicinity of UNIFIL positions.
The Secretary General also issued a condemnation of the killing by Israel Defense Forces last week of an Irish UNIFIL soldier and of SLA fire on UNIFIL positions described as “unprovoked and deliberate.”
The report acknowledged that attacks by Hezbullah have increased recently and that more terrorists participated in each attack. The Hezbullah forces are aided by elements from outside the region, according to the report. This referred to the support provided by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in the Syrian-controlled Bekaa valley, according to Eyal Arad, spokesman for the Israeli Mission.
Goulding dismissed the prospects of an imminent dismantling of the security zone by Israel. If the UNIFIL situation continues to deteriorate, the Security Council “may feel that it is no longer right that the troop-contributing countries should be asked to keep UNIFIL in being,” the report said.
Arad said the tone of the report was relatively moderate. Yohanan Bein, the Israeli Charge D’Affaires in New York, reiterated the Israeli position that the security problems in south Lebanon stem from the lack of central authority in the region.
Bein said Israel would be open to any alternative arrangement that would ensure the protection of Israel’s northern region. He said that UNIFIL serves a positive role and Israel has no intent to attack its forces.
“On the contrary, we regret any attack on UNIFIL and we make every effort possible to prevent clashes between our forces,” Bein said.