UN Report: Lebanon-Syria Border Completely Porous

Probe of Lebanese entry points reveals border open to arms smugglers, Lebanese army patrols ineffective.

Yoav Stern
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Yoav Stern

The border between Syria and Lebanon is highly porous, and there is no mechanism capable of preventing the smuggling of weapons and other materials, according to a special report by the United Nations' Lebanon Independent Border Assessment Team (LIBAT).

The UN team writes in its report - signed by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon - that the means for border supervision are inadequate, including at the designated crossing points.

Israel has insisted for some time that Security Council Resolution 1701 - which brought an end to the Second Lebanon War - is not being implemented because the flow of arms into Lebanon from Syria is not being halted, as stipulated in the resolution.

In addition to the problematic border crossings, there are many smuggling routes along the entire border between the two countries, routes that are being used by families that make a living from the smuggling.

Furthermore, there are camps of armed Palestinian groups on both sides of the border, which are not controlled by the Lebanese Army.

The report proves that any organization interested in bringing weapons from Syria into Lebanon is capable of doing so.

The UN special envoy to Lebanon and Syria, Terje Rod-Larsen, also raised similar issues before the Security Council recently.

The report does not deal with the Syrian side of the border, and only recommends that there should be improved cooperation between the countries on this issue. It notes the lack of communication between officials on the two sides of the border, and that the Lebanese officials do not even know the names of their counterparts on the Syrian side of the border.

The report recommends the establishment of a unit combining various elements of the Lebanese security forces, which will operate along the border with support from international security experts.

According to the report, the activity of the Lebanese security forces focused on border controls is not coordinated, and the role of the Lebanese army in the area is ineffective.

Lebanon's "security agencies demonstrate a good level of understanding of the nature of their duties in relation to the provision of resolution 1701. Despite such measures, the current border control strategy, the nature of the terrain, the current state of equipment available and training, as well as the processes and infrastructures at the official Border Crossing Points makes it still possible for arms to be smuggled undetected through the border line."

The authors of the report note that the Lebanese army is not trained in such missions because for the past three decades, with the dominant presence of the Syrian army in Lebanon, the border area had essentially been blurred.

"Border Security at the Syrian border is a new exercise for all the security agencies, based on the recent history of Lebanon," the inspectors write.

The experts who participated in the preparation of the report are from Denmark, Switzerland, Germany, Algeria and Jamaica. The team carried out its probe between May 27 and June 15, and focused mostly on four official crossing points active on the border between Syria and Lebanon.

The inspectors also discussed the opening of another border crossing terminal next month, and wrote about the functioning of the seaports and the Beirut international airport.

The LIBAT experts also visited other points along the border, which are suspected of being used to smuggle weapons into Lebanon. The mandate of the inspectors did not include the border between Lebanon and Israel.



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