UNIFIL troops in southern Lebanon (archives)
Photo: Reuters

Lebanon to send more troops south after skirmishes

Lebanese army to deploy additional brigade in south of country following rise in tensions near Israel border due to disputes between UNIFIL peacekeepers, local villagers

The Lebanese army will send an additional brigade to the south of the country after several skirmishes between United Nations peacekeepers and villagers inflamed tensions near the border with Israel.


The last two weeks have seen an increase in standoffs in the border area, a bastion of the Hezbollah group. Last week, residents attacked French UNIFIL peacekeepers on patrol, seizing their weapons and wounding the patrol leader.


The Lebanese government has sought to calm the situation by reiterating its commitment to Security Council Resolution 1701 which halted fighting between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006 and called for an increase in army troops and UN peacekeepers.


"(The army) ... is preparing for an additional brigade to reinforce the army's presence in the south," Lebanese army commander Jean Kahwaji was quoted as saying in an-Nahar newspaper on Friday.


"The latest incidents will not be repeated again through the respect of Security Council resolution 1701 in all its aspects."


The Lebanese army was expected to deploy 15,000 troops to the south in line with the resolution, which also called for an expansion of UNIFIL, first set up in 1978, and the banning of unauthorized weapons in southern Lebanon.


But internal political violence in 2007-2008 prevented the full force from deploying. Security sources say there are some 7,000 army troops there and the brigade would add an additional 2,500 to 3,000 soldiers.


UNIFIL commander Major-General Alberto Asarta Cuevas said on Thursday UNIFIL respected the privacy and property of villagers in the south, and that problems should be resolved by discussions not by obstructing the work of peacekeepers.


UNIFIL has insisted it must have freedom of movement.


Israel has criticized the UN peacekeeping operation in Lebanon for not stopping weapons it says are still flowing to Hezbollah guerrillas in the south. The United Nations says that is the responsibility of Lebanese authorities.



פרסום ראשון: 07.09.10, 19:14
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