Photo: AP
UNIFIL troops (archives)
Photo: AP
Israeli official: UNIFIL must expand
Top diplomatic source tells Ynet international community not interested in securing Lebanon-Syria border, ending weapon smuggling to Hizbullah 'due to sensitivity near border'. Meanwhile, Israel tries to make amendments to UNIFIL's mandate document to include sign of life from kidnapped soldiers

The international community is not willing to take on responsibility for closing the border between Lebanon and Syria in order to prevent the continued smuggling of weapons to Hizbullah, a senior Israeli official told Ynet on Sunday.


UNIFIL's mandate on southern Lebanon, which was declared along with the ceasefire that ended the Second Lebanon War, will expire on August 31.


In order to continue to strengthen the force in the area, which is made up of 13,286 soldiers from some 30 countries, the mandate must be renewed. This weekend the 15 members of the United Nations Security Council are scheduled to vote on renewing the mandate.


American and French representatives are currently working on the formula of the resolution, and Israel and Lebanon are holding separate talks with the two countries in order to make their personal demands.


Despite Jerusalem's harsh criticism against the lack of enforcement of the embargo on supplying Hizbullah with weapons, Israel does not have the ability to change the situation since Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora is the one who 'invited' the UNIFIL forces into his sovereign territory, the source explained.


Most likely out of the desire to avoid a confrontation with Syria, Siniora has not requested that UNIFIL expand its mandate to the Syrian border. Also, the Israeli official explained, the international community does not have the willingness to deploy its troops to this sensitive border, for fear of casualties.


Over the past two months, Israel has been holding talks with the UN and the countries that have sent troops to the UNIFIL force in an attempt to secure the Lebanon-Syria border.


At this point however, it seems Israel's calls to close the border remain unanswered, and the weapon smuggling to Hizbullah has been continuing at a worrisome rate.


The problem: Sensitivity near border  

"At the moment, the donor countries don’t want to expand UNIFIL's mandate beyond the area where they are deployed in southern Lebanon. This does not necessarily have to do with Siniora's willingness or unwillingness, but with their willingness. They do not want it due to the sensitivity of the border area," the Israeli source clarified.


Meanwhile, Germany was the only country to accept Israel's appeal in a limited manner. The Jewish state claimed that the failure to thwart the smuggling of weapons was sterilizing Security Council Resolution 1701. 


These days German is completing an experiment on the northern part of the Syria-Lebanon border, through a force stationed between the Mediterranean Sea and the northern vertex of on the border between the two countries in the east. The move has been coordinated with the Lebanese government.


Initial recommendations and conclusions from this experiment have been submitted to the Lebanese government, in order to examine ways to work together with the approval of the UN. In the meantime, however, it is unclear whether this experiment will lead to an extension of UNIFIL's mandate.


Israel is now seeking to make slight amendments in the multinational forces' mandate document: A call for the release of kidnapped soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, a call for a sign of life from them, a warning that the situation in Lebanon is dangerous for the region and for world peace, a clarification that the area between the Litani River and the Blue Line must remain clean of weapons and militias, and increasing the cooperation between UNIFIL and the Lebanese army.


Israel will be forced to delay its demand to close the border for arms smuggling to Hizbullah until the donor countries and the Lebanese prime minister accept its other demands.


"The decision to expand UNIFIL's mandate is a technical decision," the senior Israeli sources clarified. "It does not touch on Resolution 1701 on the ceasefire. We are now working to emphasize clauses in the resolution which are important to Israel, but not to change UNIFIL's mandate and expand it to the Syria-Lebanon border."


 new comment
See all talkbacks "Israeli official: UNIFIL must expand"
This will delete your current comment