IDF’s Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot relays to UNIFIL’s new commander Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col, that Israel expects UN forces in Lebanon to strengthen enforcement procedures against Hezbollah, Iran’s militant proxy in Lebanon.
• Previous UNIFIL chief was criticized for inadequate performance.
By Yoav Limor
The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon must increase its enforcement against Hezbollah in the country’s south, Israel’s chief of staff told the newly appointed UNIFIL commander.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot met Monday with Italian Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col, who took office earlier this month, replacing Maj. Gen. Michael Beary.
Beary was often criticized by Israel for his lack of enforcement against the Iranian-backed Shiite terrorist group.
Israel has often expressed concern over UNIFIL’s inaction against Hezbollah, which has allowed the terrorist group to turn over 200 villages in southern Lebanon into virtual urban fortresses.
UNIFIL’s decision to largely turn a blind eye to Hezbollah’s activities is in contrast to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which effectively ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War.
The resolution states that UNIFIL forces must ensure that southern Lebanon is not exploited for hostile operations. It also imposed an arms embargo on Hezbollah, which has not stopped the group from accumulating a substantial missile arsenal.
After the 2006 war UNIFIL tried to curb the Iranian proxy’s operations in southern Lebanon but in 2007, after five Spanish U.N. peacekeepers were killed by a roadside bomb near the town of al-Hiyam, U.N. personnel limited their operations to open areas only.
The move required only little adjustment for Hezbollah, which simply shifted its focus to developing infrastructure in the local villages, where UNIFIL has had little success of stopping it.
UNIFIL’s impact on the ground has been significantly eroded over the years. Last year, Israel revealed that Hezbollah was operating along the Israel-Lebanon border freely under the guise of a nongovernment organization called “Green without Borders.”
UNIFIL rejected the claims, but Israel presented it with intelligence that proved that this activity was carried out openly.
Israel hopes that things will be different under Del Col’s command. The Italian general’s first test will be an ongoing dispute between Israel and Lebanon over a border wall that Israel is building.
Lebanon claims part of the wall violates its sovereignty, while Israel maintains construction is carried out entirely within its territory.
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