The United Nations Security Council today discussed the future of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) as the force reported further heavy exchanges of fire between Hezbollah and Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) close to its positions in the south of the country.
The 15-member body met with countries that contribute troops to UNIFIL before holding consultations that included a briefing by the Director of the Asia and Middle East Division of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, as well as discussing Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s latest report on the Force, a UN spokesman told reporters.
In his report, which was released yesterday, Mr. Annan said the upsurge in violence since 12 July had “radically changed the context” in which the Force operates and he recommended that its mandate be increased only for another month while all possible options for southern Lebanon are worked out.
Before the recent violence, the Lebanese Government had called for a six-month extension of UNIFIL’s mandate, but Mr. Annan wrote that the “circumstances conducive to United Nations peacekeeping do not exist,” a point emphasized by reports from the Force documenting continued heavy fighting.
Four members of the Ghanaian UNIFIL battalion were lightly injured yesterday evening when a tank round from the Israeli side hit inside their position, while this morning, Hezbollah opened small arms fire at one of their convoys, causing some damage but no casualties, according to a press statement.
UNIFIL also reported that a number of civilians were still stranded and caught in crossfire in the towns of Bint Jubayl and Yarun because of “intensive fighting” on the outskirts.