The United Nation's Security Council voted Thursday to renew the mandate of UN troops in southern Lebanon (UNIFIL). The normally routine vote became the background for controversy this year as allegations surfaced regarding UNIFIL's enforcement – or lack thereof – of UN resolution 1701.
Resolution 1701, which ended the Second Lebanon War, forbids the presence of Hizbullah or other non-governmental armed forces between the Israel-Lebanon border and the Litani River.
According to the Lebanese Daily Star, the draft mentions “deep concern over violations relating to Resolution 1701, especially the latest dangerous violations,” but does not explicitly cite incidents such as the arms cache blast in July in southern Lebanon. The explosion was seen as a sign of Hizbullah activity in the area.
Israel's Ambassador to the UN, Gabriela Shalev, made it clear during Thursday's vote that Israel sees UNIFIL as responsible for enforcing the resolution. The renewed mandate will allow UNIFIL troops to make “increased efforts” to clear the region they patrol as required by 1701, she said. Her remarks were not incorporated into the resolution.
Recent events in southern Lebanon, including the blasts heard in July, show that non-governmental forces remain active in the area, Shalev warned. “A terrorist organization, Hizbullah, continues to deploy its assets and operates actively both north and south of the Litani river,” she told the council.
In addition to voting to extend the UN mandate, council members voted to review the UNIFIL structure. The UN may decide to increase UNIFIL's naval capabilities. UNIFIL was created in 1978. It's numbers were brought to 12,000 following the 2006 war.