An update on Hizballah’s human shields in blue helmets from AFP: “UN force in Lebanon not authorised to seek Hezbollah arms: Le Monde”
PARIS – The new UN force being deployed to Lebanon is allowed to use force to defend itself or civilians and to enforce a buffer zone along the Israeli border, but cannot actively seek out Hezbollah arms caches, according to UN documents obtained by Le
The French newspaper said Tuesday the rules of engagement contained in the documents also did not allow the force to intercede if hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah flared up again.
A 21-page text marked “UN restricted,” dated August 18, sets the conditions under which the force of up to 15,000 soldiers — mandated under UN Resolution 1701 — can use, or threaten to use, weapons.
France, which currently commands the 2000-strong UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) slated to expand under the resolution, has been criticised for sending just 200 extra soldiers, doubling its current contingent.
Several other countries have also expressed reluctance to get further involved, in large part because of a belief that the rules of engagement are too restrictive to effectively enforce the ceasefire contained in Resolution 1701.
According to the Le Monde article datelined from New York, the UN document said UNIFIL is authorised to use “appropriate and credible” force in self-defence.
It can also use “proportional” force to prevent the buffer zone between the Israeli border and Lebanon’s Litani river from being used for “hostile activities”; to counter resistance in enforcing its mandate; or to protect civilians.
Le Monde said a second document — marked “UN confidential” — clearly stated that it was up to the Lebanese army to take control of the buffer zone and to “disarm Hezbollah”.
“We are not going to actively seek out Hezbollah’s arms,” a high-ranking UN military official told Le Monde. “But if, during a patrol, we come across a cache, our mandate is to seize those rockets.”
The official added that UNIFIL road checkpoints were also permitted to seize weapons found in stopped vehicles, and that “lethal force” can be used to stop the occupants from forcing their way through.
But if a UNIFIL unit comes across Hezbollah firing a rocket into Israel, it should alert the Lebanese army and not use force against the militia itself, even though a strict interpretation of the UN mandate might allow that, the official
The same sidelining of the UN force would apply if Israel mounted another raid in Lebanon and the Lebanese militaries retaliated, he said.
“We will not put ourselves in the middle, we will try to stop them by other means,” he said.
“But if Israel targets civilians, we will have to find counter-measures by blocking access roads or putting observers in place, even if that is very dangerous,” he said.
That statement is ridiculous, but is nonetheless most revealing of the fact that the UN force is set up to deal with Israel as if it were the chief aggressor.
On the other hand, what about the infinitely more likely scenario of Hizballah targeting civilians in Israel, or continuing their modus operandi of positioning themselves to draw fire upon populated areas? That apparently didn’t come up.
The article noted that objections by the Lebanese government stymied France’s effort to give the UN force powers under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which would have permitted military force to back all aspects of the mandate.
Nevertheless, a UN official said UNIFIL had a “robust” mandate that contained some elements of Chapter VII rules of engagement, and a wide degree of autonomy.
UNIFIL is to report directly to the UN”s head of peacekeeping, Frenchman Jean-Marie Guehenno, who in turn reports to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.