UNIFIL

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, or UNIFIL, is a United Nations mandate established by UN Security Council Resolutions 425 and 426. These measures were passed in 1978 following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. UNIFIL, which is headed by Major-General Claudio Graziano of Italy, was initially tasked with ensuring the withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon, restore peace and security, and to assist the Lebanese government in ensuring the return of its effective authority in the area. The original mandate was reconfirmed again following the 2006 Second Lebanon War with UN Security Council Resolution 1701. This new resolution provided UNIFIL greater powers and it is active in southern Lebanon today.

UNIFIL’s mission in Lebanon has been seen as largely ineffective due to the lack of power granted to the force. After its establishment in 1978, UNIFIL was unsuccessful in preventing terrorist attacks on Israel by the Palestine Liberation Organization, whose militants were positioned along the Israeli border in southern Lebanon. UNIFIL’s failure to prevent attacks sparked Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982, an operation which led Israeli troops into west Beirut with the goal of ousting the PLO leadership. The rise of the militant Shi'ite group, Hezbollah, in the vacuum created by Israel’s presence in Lebanon has only heightened the problems faced by UNIFIL. Border disagreements between Israel and Lebanon over the Shebaa farms is cited by Hezbollah as justification for continued armed struggle against Israel, even though the area is designated by the UN as part of Syrian territory.

A deadly cross border raid by Hezbollah, which sparked the 2006 Second Lebanon War, resulted in the renewal of the UNIFIL mandate in Lebanon. The first nation to contribute to UNIFIL’s revamped force was Ireland. UNIFIL maintains its headquarters in Naqoura, Lebanon. Although UNIFIL is present in southern Lebanon in order to assist the Lebanese government in establishing its control in the region, Hezbollah operatives continue to run the region. UNIFIL forces are unable to stop them due to the constraints placed on them. UNIFIL will remain in Lebanon until its mandate expires on August 31, 2010.