United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon
UNITED NATIONS INTERIM FORCE IN LEBANON
UN force in Lebanon to confirm Israeli withdrawal and assist the Lebanese government with restoring order and security.
Israel's invasion of southern Lebanon in March 1978, at a crucial stage in negotiations between Egypt and Israel, caused the United States to insist on rapid United Nations Security Council action. Resolution 425 of 19 March called on Israel to withdraw its forces and established a United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to confirm Israel's withdrawal, restore peace and security, and assist the Lebanese government in regaining its authority. The force, initially 4,000 strong, later increasing to 6,000, began to arrive in early April 1978.
UNIFIL had no mandate to deal with the various Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) groups and Israel's proxy South Lebanon Army, irregular forces that dominated the region. The Lebanese government had no wish to reestablish its authority in the area. Southern Lebanon was a peacekeepers nightmare.
Despite humiliations, including being swept aside during Israel's 1982 invasion, and sustaining almost 250 casualties, UNIFIL remained in place because it provided some measure of security, stability, and humanitarian protection in an extremely volatile border area. When Israel finally withdrew in May 2000, UNIFIL deployed to the border. The Lebanese government, deaf to all exhortations, left the radical Shiʿite movement Hizbullah in control of the border area, and many incidents resulted. In 2002 UNIFIL was restructured as a 2,000-strong armed observer force with contingents from France, Ghana, India, Italy, Nepal, Poland, and Ukraine. Its mandate ran to July 2003.
see also hizbullah; palestine liberation organization (plo); south lebanon army; united nations and the middle east.
Skogmo, Bjørn. UNIFIL: International Peacekeeping in Lebanon, 1978–1988. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1989.
UNIFIL–United Nations Web site. Available from <http://www.un.org/depts/dpko/missions/unifil>.
updated by brian urquhart