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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Good news: Lebanese Armed Forces to 'protect' UNIFIL

5,000 Lebanese Armed Forces troops are being sent to 'protect' French UNIFIL soldiers after the French have come under attack by Hezbullah supporters in south Lebanon villages three times in the last two weeks.
“Some measures had to be taken to make sure no such incidents take place in the future,” Nawaf Salam, Lebanon’s ambassador to the UN, said in an interview on Friday, referring to three attacks on French peacekeeping troops since June 29.

The commander of the United Nations’ 12,000 soldiers and civilian police in southern Lebanon appealed for calm this week, in an open letter to the region’s population, while France called a meeting on Friday in New York of the UN Security Council to receive a report on the issue.

“We wanted to emphasize the seriousness of the situation,” Gerard Araud, France’s ambassador to the UN, told reporters after the meeting. “These incidents have given rise to apprehension and concern. We cannot accept obstacles to freedom of movement [of UN troops].”

The members of the Security Council “strongly deplore” the clashes with peacekeepers and urge the Lebanese army to send reinforcements to the border area with Israel, according to a statement adopted after the briefing.

The tensions came as Israel said Hizbullah is preparing for fighting.

The IDF on Friday showed journalists previously classified aerial photographs of a unit of 90 Hizbullah militiamen operating in a village where they were storing weapons close to hospitals and schools.
So what's the problem with having Lebanese Armed Forces protect the French troops? Here's the problem.
A senior officer told the Post last week that Hizbullah had set up positions inside Shi'ite villages in southern Lebanon where UNIFIL could not operate freely without being accompanied by the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), whose soldiers would usually tip off Hizbullah before a raid. Israel is also concerned with the continued smuggling of weapons to Hizbullah and via the Syrian-Lebanese border.

"The LAF is two-thirds Shi'ite and will not challenge Hizbullah," the senior officer said.
That report is from 2008, but the composition of the Lebanese Armed Forces has not changed not has its unwillingness to challenge Hezbullah. Having the LAF accompany UNIFIL for UNIFIL's 'protection' effectively ends any effectiveness UNIFIL had (and it never had much) as a peacekeeping force.

What's really needed is soldiers who are going to fight Hezbullah in order to keep the peace. Obviously, the French will not do that. Neither will the rest of UNIFIL nor the LAF. Guess who's going to have to do it.


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