The conflict that has engulfed Lebanon and northern Israel over the past month is set to end on Monday when a cessation of hostilities called for by the United Nations Security Council enters into force, Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced today following talks with the leaders of both countries.
“As I promised the Security Council yesterday, I have today been in touch with the Prime Ministers of Israel and Lebanon to discuss with them the exact date and time when the cessation of hostilities called for by the Council will enter into force,” Mr. Annan said in a statement, announcing that the two leaders have agreed that “the cessation of hostilities and the end of the fighting will enter into force on 14 August, at 0500 hours GMT.”
The Secretary-General voiced his preference for an immediate halt to the hostilities “to respect the spirit and intent of the Council decision, the object of which was to save civilian lives, to spare the pain and suffering that the civilians on both sides are living through.”
Urging the parties to stop immediately, he assured them that the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) will work with them to implement the agreement and will monitor compliance.
The Security Council’s unanimously adopted resolution welcomed the Lebanese Government’s plan to deploy 15,000 troops across the south of the country as Israel withdraws behind the Blue Line. It also backed the simultaneous deployment of UNIFIL with an enhanced mandate, equipment, scope of operation and authorized strength of up to 15,000 peacekeepers.
The mission will be tasked with monitoring the cessation of hostilities, helping to ensure humanitarian access to civilians and the safe return of displaced persons, and supporting the Lebanese armed forces as they deploy in the south and enforce their responsibilities under the resolution.
More than 1,000 people, nearly all of them civilians, have been killed in Lebanon and northern Israel, and many more people injured, since fighting broke out following Hizbollah’s capture of two Israeli soldiers on 12 July. As many as a quarter of Lebanon’s population has been forced to flee their homes.