The United Nations Security Council voted to extend the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon on Thursday, just hours before it was due to expire.
China and Russia both abstained from the vote, which resulted in a unanimous 13-0.
Since 1978, The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has worked to maintain calm in southern Lebanon. The organization is currently seeking to enforce a UN resolution barring armed operations by the Lebanese terror group, Hezbollah, near the ceasefire line that forms the de facto border.
The resolution demands that the Lebanese military and Hezbollah stop blocking UNIFIL and guarantee its freedom to operate “by allowing announced and unannounced patrols.”
Last year, Lebanese officials pushed to remove a provision in the resolution that allows UNIFIL to patrol without giving the Lebanese army prior notice.
On Monday, Hezbollah Chief Hassan Nasrallah said that the provision is a violation of Lebanese sovereignty. He also accused the peacekeepers of being “spies for the Israelis” supported by the United States.
The council dismissed Nasrallah’s assertions and voted to reaffirm the agreement between the United Nations and the Lebanese government, stating that UNIFIL “does not require prior authorization or permission to undertake its mandated tasks.”
Israel’s ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan praised the new mandate and promised to continue demanding that Lebanon prevent Hezbollah’s military buildup, which he said “could lead to a dramatic escalation in the region.”
Israel’s Foreign Ministry also welcomed the mandate renewal, saying UNIFIL “aids in maintaining stability in southern Lebanon.” The ministry called for the international community “to take a firm stand against the attempts of the terrorist organization Hezbollah to create provocations and cause an escalation.”
During the security council meeting, US envoy to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield expressed concern over the activity of Green Without Borders, an environmental organization considered by Israel, the U.S. and Western nations as a cover for Hezbollah military activities along the border.
Israel has repeatedly accused the Iranian-backed terror group of impeding UNIFIL peacekeepers from carrying out their mandate. In 2006, Hezbollah battled Israel during a month-long war, and later in 2019, Israel destroyed a series of Hezbollah attack tunnels that were dug under the border.
Last year, UNIFIL was ambushed by a group of local armed residents who opened fire and killed an Irish peacekeeper. In June of this year, Lebanon’s military tribunal charged five men with the murder and later linked them with Hezbollah, however, the group has denied any role in the attack.
UNIFIL was formed in 1978 to oversee the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the southern Lebanon border. In 2006, the mission was expanded to deploy peacekeepers along the Lebanon-Israel border to assist Lebanese troops in extending their authority into the southern region of the country for the first time in decades. The resolution called for a full cessation of Israeli-Hezbollah hostilities, which has yet to take place.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.