Hezbollah slams amendment in UN peacekeepers’ mandate

BEIRUT (AFP): The leader of Lebanon’s Shiite armed group Hezbollah on Saturday condemned a recent amendment in the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force deployed along the border with Israel.

The UN Security Council on August 31 extended the mandate of the UNIFIL peacekeeping force for a period of a year but with a slight modification in the wording.

Hassan Nasrallah took issue in a televised speech with a part of the resolution that states the peacekeeping force “is allowed to conduct its operations independently.”

The UNIFIL force, which was first deployed more than four decades ago, has routinely coordinated its patrols and movements in its area of operations in the south with the Lebanese army.

“This is a trap that the Israelis have set for Lebanon over many years,” Nasrallah said, calling the resolution “a violation of Lebanese sovereignty.”

Nasrallah lambasted the Lebanese government for allowing the resolution through and warned that it could give rise “to great dangers in the area south of the Litani” river.

On September 13, UNIFIL reacted to Hezbollah concerns by assuring it was still working closely with the Lebanese army, a statement Nasrallah welcomed in his Saturday speech.

UNIFIL was set up in 1978 to monitor the withdrawal of Israeli forces after they invaded Lebanon in reprisal for a Palestinian attack.

It was beefed up in 2006 after Israel and Hezbollah fought a 34-day war, and the 10,500-strong force is tasked with monitoring a cease-fire between the two sides.

Israel and Lebanon are still technically at war.