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August 7, 2018 4:37 pm

Israeli UN Envoy Urges New Head of South Lebanon Peacekeeping Force to Push Back Harder Against Hezbollah

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The Israel-Lebanon border area. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Italian Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col replaced Irish Maj. Gen. Michael Beary as the new commander of the UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon on Tuesday — a development that was welcomed by a top Israeli diplomat.

“UNIFIL is an important force, with more than 10,000 soldiers,” Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said in a statement. “Its more robust mandate is designed to push back against the blatant, unauthorized arms buildup of Hezbollah, a proxy of Iran, in southern Lebanon. With a new commander, there is a new opportunity to fulfill more of this important mission.”

Danon’s office explained: “UNIFIL’s mandate has been to restore peace and security to the Israeli – Lebanese border. Following the Second Lebanon War in 2006, its mandate was expanded to include monitoring the area between the Blue Line and Litani River, and keep it free of armed personnel, other than Lebanese government or UNIFIL forces. Last September, the US and Israel worked together to further expand UNIFIL’s mandate by authorizing patrols with Lebanese forces and requiring reports when peacekeepers run into Hezbollah roadblocks.”

Recent UNIFIL commanders — including Beary, who assumed the position in July 2016 — have all served terms of 2-3 years.

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In an interview with The Algemeiner in March, Danon said of UNIFIL, “All too often they do not report on the full extent of the dangerous buildup of missiles and rockets in southern Lebanon,” Danon said of UNIFIL. “The fact is that despite the presence of UNIFIL, Hezbollah today is stronger than ever.”

Last September, in an Algemeiner op-ed, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley hailed the changes made to UNIFIL’s mandate meant to bolster its ability to carry out its mission.

The “status quo with UNIFIL was unacceptable, so the United States refused to accept it,” she wrote.

“For the United States, this is a time for strength, resolve, and accountability at the United Nations,” Haley declared. “That’s what our effort at strengthening UNIFIL was all about.”

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