Southern Lebanon continues to endure intense fighting - UN mission

Smoke rises in the southern Lebanon village after an explosion, 2 August 2006. (MaanImages/Moti Milrod)

More than three weeks after hostilities began, Hizbollah and the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) are still exchanging heavy fire in southern Lebanon with little sign of any abatement, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) reported today.

Although the number of rockets launched by Hizbollah from within UNIFIL’s area of operation during the past 24 hours was below the figures of recent days, the numbers remained large, UNIFIL said in a statement issued in the Lebanese city of Naqoura. Some rockets were fired from close to UN positions near Alma ash Shab and At Tiri.

UNIFIL reported that the IDF maintained its intensive shelling and aerial bombardment across Lebanon’s south, where the mission has operated since 1978. The IDF fired from close to UN positions in Naqoura and near Hula and Markaba.

The statement noted that the mission had protested vigorously to both the Israeli and Lebanese authorities about the attacks launched close to UN posts.

A convoy of UNIFIL vehicles also came under small arms fire near Markaba, causing damage to an armoured personnel carrier. It was not possible to determine the origin of the attack, UNIFIL said.

Aside from its monitoring function, UNIFIL has been involved in many humanitarian and engineering activities since the crisis began. The mission helped evacuate 21 civilians from the UN post at Marun al Ras to another UN post near Tibnin yesterday, with plans to relocate the group outside the area later today. It has also repaired damaged roads, cleared several villages of rubble, and provided water and treatment to Lebanese civilians.

Meanwhile, UNIFIL engineering workers were today able to extricate the remains of the last of the four military observers killed on 25 July when IDF bombardment destroyed their post at Khiyam. The bodies of three of the observers had already been recovered, but the final body was only found after debris was cleared from the site.

Since the conflict began three weeks ago, the violence has forced about one million people to flee their homes in Lebanon and northern Israel, including an estimated 800,000 people in Lebanon. Hundreds of others have been killed and thousands more injured.

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