One day after the Security Council voted unanimously for a cessation of hostilities in Lebanon, fighting continued today and one blue helmet was wounded when Israeli fire hit a United Nations position in the south.
In a speech to last night’s Council meeting, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he would be working with Israel and Lebanon this weekend to establish “the exact date and time at which the cessation of hostilities will come into effect.” He also welcomed the resolution but said the Council should have acted much sooner.
The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which under the resolution is to be expanded from some 2,000 to 15,000 troops, today reported that military situation in the south of the country “for the most part has remained unchanged in the past 24 hours” with fighting between Hizbollah and the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) continuing “with same intensity” as before.
One member of the Ghanaian battalion with UNIFIL was wounded early this morning when two artillery rounds from the Israeli side impacted directly inside a UNIFIL position in the area of Haris in the central sector, the Force reported.
There were four other incidents of firing from the Israeli side close to UN positions in the areas causing material damage but no casualties, according to UNIFIL, which reported that Hizbollah also fired rockets from the vicinity of UN positions. As it has repeatedly in recent weeks, UNIFIL strongly protested all the incidents to the Israeli and Lebanese authorities respectively.
The effort to help civilians caught in the crossfire continued to be severely hampered by Israeli military operations and overall insecurity. “UNIFIL’s freedom of movement and the ability to re-supply positions and provide humanitarian assistance were denied because of the lack of security clearance from the IDF and due to the intensive hostilities on the ground,” the mission said in a press release.
A humanitarian convoy to distribute food to the villages in the western sector, and other humanitarian activities planned by UNIFIL, could not proceed in the last six days due to the denial of consent by the IDF. The IDF also still not responded to the repeated requests by UNIFIL to reopen the road between Tyre and Beirut by putting up another provisional bridge over the Litani River in a bid to facilitate the delivery of aid to beleaguered civilians in the south.
UNIFIL had also been accompanying a convoy of hundreds of Lebanese security forces and civilians with prior Israeli approval out of the Force’s area of operations when, the Lebanese authorities reported, it came under Israeli air strikes and a number of people were killed and wounded.
“UNIFIL conveyed this information to the IDF and asked them to immediately cease attacks on the convoy,” the Force said. “At the request of the Lebanese authorities today, UNIFIL requested the IDF to give security clearance for the convoy to proceed towards Beirut.”
The Force also continued to help civilians, among other measures by sending a medical and rescue team to evacuate some two dozen people from the village of Haris to a UNIFIL position in the area of Tibnin. UNIFIL provided medical assistance to 10 of them who were wounded as a result of intensive Israeli air strikes overnight. Two who had sustained serious injuries were relocated to a UNIFIL hospital.