The UNSC on friday voted to extend the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force on the border between Lebanon and Israel, although troop numbers will be reduced
Rabat – The UNSC has voted to keep the UNIFIL peacekeeping force on the border between Lebanon and Israel by extending its mandate for another year. The maximum number of troops in the mission has however been reduced from 15,000 to 13,000 at the behest of Israel and the United States.
UNIFIL soldiers will continue to monitor “the blue line” between Israel and Lebanon for another year. The ceiling for troop numbers has been brought down but still exceeds the current deployment of 10,500 troops. The proposal, voted on on friday, was a French compromise to accommodate US and Israeli demands for increased UNIFIL power to monitor Hezbollah.
The diplomatic compromise appears to put additional pressure on Hezbollah with little or no additional restraints on Israel. A French official issued a warning to Hezbollah not to “escalate” with no express warning for Israel.
The US and Israel have urged the UNSC to “empower” UNIFIL but appeared to reframe its mission as a protective force against Hezbollah. The renewed tensions on the Israel-Lebanon border reached a new high on August 26 after Israel, in an infuriating but typical twist, attacked its distressed neighbor. Claims to have been fired upon from Lebanon, Israel responded with combat planes, helicopters, and live fire.
While the prerogatives of the UNIFIL mission to monitor Hezbollah appear to have been expanded, there has been no mention of checks on Israel’s ability to strike Lebanon at will. UNIFIL launched an “urgent investigation” into wednesday’s hostilities, asking for both parties to cooperate.
The UNSC vote was executed via email in order to comply with COVID-19 measures. Although the final tally will occur on August 31, diplomats confirmed the successful vote to Reuters.