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United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)


Military unit created in 1978 by the United Nations to restore peace in Lebanon. Under Security Council Resolutions 425 and 426, adopted on 19 March 1978 following the invasion of South Lebanon by Israel, UNIFIL was given a mandate to confirm the withdrawal of Israeli forces, restore international peace and security, and assist the government of Lebanon in assuring the return of its effective authority in the area. The mandate has been extended every six months since then, most recently by Security Council Resolution 1553 of 29 July 2004.

UNIFIL was deployed over an area of 680 km with around 400,000 inhabitants. Since March 1978, when Israel occupied South Lebanon, UNIFIL has been a powerless witness of the nonobservance of various UN resolutions. It was "shoved aside" in May 1982 by Israeli forces, engaged in Operation "Peace in Galilee." The Israeli army occupied a "security zone" of around 850 km in South Lebanon after its partial retreat of 1985. A UNIFIL post at Qana was bombarded by Israeli artillery, on 18 April 1996 during Operation "Grapes of Wrath," causing over a hundred deaths among the Lebanese refugees that were under UNIFIL protection.

On 27 July 2000, a month after the withdrawal of the Israeli forces from South Lebanon, the Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1310, renewing the mandate while calling on the government of Lebanon to proceed with the deployment of a significant number of Lebanese armed forces as soon as possible. On 30 January 2001, in Resolution 1337, it reduced the number of UNIFIL troops from 5,800 to 4,500, thereby signifying disapproval of the Lebanese government, which did not seem in a hurry to reestablish its authority over the area vacated by the IDF. This resolution also expressed concern about the violation of the withdrawal line set by the UN and urged both parties to fulfill the commitments they had made to respect it. Subsequent resolutions have continued to express such concern, reduce troops, and emphasize the interim nature of UNIFIL.

On 31 August 2004 UNIFIL had a force of 1995 troops, representing seven different countries, assisted by some 50 military observers from United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) and a civilian staff of over 400. In resolution 1559, adopted on 2 September 2004, the Security Council declared that it was "gravely concerned" at the continued presence of armed militias in Lebanon that prevented the Lebanese government from exercising full sovereignty over it territory, and called for their disbanding and disarmament. It also declared its support for a "free and fair electoral process" in Lebanon's upcoming presidential election.

SEE ALSO United Nations Truce Supervision Organization.

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