The United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1701 in August 2006, which brought about an end to the 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon. The resolution called on the Lebanese government to “secure its borders and other entry points to prevent the entry in Lebanon without its consent of arms or related materiel” and authorized the peacekeepers of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (‘UNIFIL”) to assist the government of Lebanon to accomplish this objective “at its request.”
Resolution 1701 also required “disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon” except for “the Lebanese State.” The disarmament was intended to include Hezbollah.
In addition, UNIFIL was mandated to “assist the Lebanese armed forces in taking steps towards the establishment, between the Blue Line [the UN published border demarcation between Lebanon and Israel] and the Litani river, of an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL deployed in this area.” UNIFIL was authorized to take all necessary action in areas of deployment of its forces to ensure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind.
On its website, UNIFIL declared that “UNIFIL deals with all parties even-handedly and does not ignore any violations.”
UNIFIL is anything but even-handed. It has become instead the UN Hezbollah Protection Force. It focuses on alleged Israeli violations of Resolution 1701. However, it looks the other way as Hezbollah has built up, under UNIFIL’s nose in civilian areas within areas of UNIFIL’s deployment of its forces, a stockpile of many thousands of rockets supplied illegally by Iran and Syria.
Just last week, for example, UNIFIL condemned Israeli overflights in Lebanese airspace. It said that ” in the course of the past week, it has observed a higher number of Israeli air violations over Lebanese airspace. Israeli overflights are in violation of Lebanese sovereignty and of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006). We are aware of the concerns raised by the Lebanese Government in this regard. The UN Interim Force has lodged firm protests with the Israeli Defense Forces on this matter, asking them to cease the overflights.”
I asked Martin Nesirky, the Spokesperson for the UN Secretary General, whether the Secretary General or UNIFIL have any comment on the delivery of missiles from Iran and Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon in violation of Resolution 1701, which requires all member states to prevent arms shipments from their territories to militias in Lebanon, including Hezbollah.
The response I received was that UNIFIL had a specific mandate and a clearly defined area of operations, which is limited to the area south of the Litani River in southern Lebanon. Its focus was said to be on “the cessation of hostilities between Lebanon and Israel. UNIFIL is not deployed along the Lebanon-Syria borders that lie north of the Litani River.”
In other words, UNIFIL has nothing to say about Iran’s and Syria’s illegal shipments by land and sea to Lebanon of thousands of missiles to Hezbollah, many of which the terrorist organization is storing throughout the 160 or so Shiite villages in southern Lebanon below the Litani River. Condemning the shipments and doing everything possible to locate and help destroy all Hezbollah weapons found within at least the “area south of the Litani River” is clearly within UNIFIL’s mandate. But, with a few minor exceptions, UNIFIL has chosen to ignore that part of its mandate. Instead, UNIFIL reserves its criticism for Israeli overflights that are intended to protect Israeli civilians from surprise Hezbollah attacks with the weapons it has received illegally in violation of Resolution 1701.
UNIFIL’s mandate under Resolution 1701 includes assisting “the Government of Lebanon, at its request, in securing its borders and other entry points to prevent the entry in Lebanon without its consent of arms or related materiel.” In a 2007 letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Fuad Siniora, the Lebanese Prime Minister at that time, asked for the UN’s help in halting the flow of illegal arms into the country from Syria and accused Hezbollah of arming opposition groups in Lebanon.
Siniora’s letter stated:
“Our objective is to demonstrate the importance of monitoring the borders and of preventing arms contraband. The Lebanese government urges the secretary general of the United Nations to work for the application of international resolutions relative to these questions, which are sources of concern and relevance.”
UNIFIL has sat on its hands. In fact, less than a year after the Lebanese Prime Minister sent his plea for help to the United Nations, the commander of UNIFIL, whom at the time was Maj.-Gen. Claudio Graziano, went out of his way at a press conference at UN headquarters in New York to praise Hezbollah. He declared that the Islamist terrorist group and UNIFIL forces enjoyed excellent cooperation with one another. He added, however, that continued Israel Air Force overflights in Lebanese airspace constituted a “permanent violation of 1701.”
In the few instances when UNIFIL peacekeepers entered Shiite villages to search for weapons, they gave up as soon as they encountered any resistance from Hezbollah or its sympathizers. Gen. Alberto Asarta, the Spanish general who for the past three years has served as commander of UNIFIL forces in southern Lebanon, had the audacity to claim that the area of southern Lebanon under his operational control was “the best and most stable in the whole of the Middle East” and to attribute this stability to Hezbollah’s cooperation with UNIFIL!
As part of his most recent five-day tour of the region, United Nations Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous toured on May 12th the Blue Line in the UNIFIL area of operations in southern Lebanon. He was accompanied by senior UNIFIL officials. After his tour, which provided plenty of opportunities for photo-ops, Mr. Ladsous said “I commend the parties for their continued commitment to the cessation of hostilities and the implementation of resolution 1701.”
Comments like these whitewash Hezbollah’s flagrant violations of Security Council Resolution 1701. Hezbollah now has more than 50,000 deadly missiles aimed at Israeli population centers, with the prospect of adding chemical weapons and highly precise missiles with greater reach deep inside Israel. In his speech last week, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said his jihadists were “ready to receive any game-changing weapons. Syria will give the resistance special weapons it never had before.”
Yet UNIFIL ( i.e., the UN Hezbollah Protection Force) is still directing its accusations of Resolution 1701 violations against Israel for using air reconnaissance in Lebanon to monitor Hezbollah’s re-armament and to enable Israel to better defend its civilian populations against a surprise attack. Some European Union countries such as France, which contribute troops to UNIFIL, refuse to properly label Hezbollah as the terrorist organization it surely is.
Israel cannot rely on UNIFIL or the UN Security Council to protect its civilians from Hezbollah’s missile attacks, much less from the game-changing threat posed if and when Hezbollah gets its hands on Syria’s vast stockpiles of chemical weapons. Nasrallah has already threatened to kill tens of thousands of Israelis. In the final analysis, Israel has the responsibility to protect its own citizens from Hezbollah’s commission of such crimes against humanity.
As Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor said on May 10th during a discussion on counter-terrorism at the UN Security Council, “We will not allow Hezbollah – and I’d like to emphasize this clearly – to test our resolve.”
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