United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)
United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)Reuters

The UN Security Council on Friday extended the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon but also cut its mandate.

The French-drafted resolution approved by the Security Council reduces the troop ceiling for the force, known as UNIFIL, from 15,000 to 13,000, according to The Associated Press.

It calls on the Lebanese government to facilitate "prompt and full access" to sites requested by UN peacekeepers for investigation, including tunnels crossing the UN-drawn Blue Line between Lebanon and Israel. And it urges freedom of movement and unimpeded access for peacekeepers to all parts of the Blue Line, and condemns "in the strongest terms" all attempts to restrict UN troop movements and attacks on mission personnel.

"Today we halt a long period of Council complacency on UNIFIL and the growing and destabilizing influence of Iran and its client, the terrorist organization Hezbollah," US Ambassador Kelly Craft said in a statement after the vote. "The Trump Administration is deeply concerned these last years about UNIFIL´s overall inability to contain the Hezbollah menace.

"We are not going to allow this to stand," she added. "The Council must join us in confronting this."

While the resolution reduces the troop ceiling from 15,000 to 13,000, it will not require any cuts in the current peacekeeping force since UNIFIL’s current strength is about 10,250 troops, well below the ceiling.

Craft called the reduction "an important step toward right-sizing a mission that has for years been over-resourced given the limits on its freedom of movement and access."

UNIFIL works to implement Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

According to the resolution, Hezbollah must not be allowed to operate in southern Lebanon and the entire area of southern Lebanon must be free of any armed personnel and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon.

UNIFIL was originally created to oversee the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the area. The mission was expanded after the 2006 war between Israel and the Hezbollah terrorist group so that peacekeepers could deploy along the Lebanon-Israel border, to help Lebanese troops extend their authority into their country's south for the first time in decades.

Before Friday’s vote, Israel's ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, sent a letter to members of the Security Council demanding significant changes be made to UNIFIL's mandate to improve the UN force's ability to fully access and monitor areas in which Hezbollah operates.

"There is no justification for having an ineffective force operate in territory in which Hezbollah is using to arm itself and turn southern Lebanon into a terrorist base. Only a significant change to UNIFIL's purpose and capabilities on the ground can justify its existence," Ambassador Erdan said.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)