| 17 April 2024, Wednesday |

Expectations of escalation in south… What’s behind UNIFIL’s extension?

Prominent diplomatic sources clarified to “Sawt Beirut International” that Lebanon has requested the United Nations to renew the mandate of the international force operating in the south, UNIFIL, for an additional year starting from September 1st. The current mandate of this force expires on August 31st, and extending it requires diplomatic action in the United Nations Security Council to issue a resolution in order to achieve this.
Other diplomatic sources have confirmed that undisclosed international consultations have begun regarding the extension of UNIFIL’s mandate. It is expected to take place in August, after France presents the resolution project for the extension in the middle of next month. France has been and continues to be the “penholder” in the Security Council regarding Lebanon. It is the country that consistently presents the resolution for the extension after receiving a recommendation from the United Nations Secretary-General in a letter to the Security Council based on Lebanon’s request for the extension.
The sources highlighted the recent escalation in the southern region, a few days ago, when a rocket was launched from the south towards Palestinian territories, followed by Israel’s response. These sources indicate that diplomatic expectations do not exclude the possibility of further tension in the south leading up to the mandate extension. This is believed to be driven by both Hezbollah and its supporters in the south on one side, and Israel on the other, with the aim of conveying political messages through security developments. Concurrently, negotiations are taking place among the five permanent members of the Security Council regarding the resolution project for the extension. All these actions aim to exert political pressure in favor of each party’s desired outcome.
The sources reveal to “Voice of Beirut International” that Lebanon is facing significant difficulty in convincing Western countries in the Security Council to adopt its perspective expressed prior to the request for UNIFIL’s extension. Lebanon’s viewpoint entails excluding the paragraph from the anticipated resolution that was included in the previous extension resolution. This paragraph relates to the freedom of movement for UNIFIL without the presence or coordination with the Lebanese army, should they choose to do so. It involves expanding UNIFIL’s movements, which some countries have objected to.
It appears that Lebanon will not be able to remove this paragraph from the new resolution in August. The Lebanese authorities, backed by Hezbollah, aim to remove it in order to prevent the international force from operating without the presence of the Lebanese army. It is worth noting that any movement by UNIFIL in coordination with the army, is preceded by prior briefing from Hezbollah. Furthermore, in practice, the international force has not implemented the paragraph concerning its freedom of movement within its operational area, and it has remained without effective implementation. Countries are well aware that any action not desired by Hezbollah exposes the force to significant risks, and they do not want to incur losses among their personnel in southern Lebanon.

  • Sawt Beirut International