Tuesday, August 30, 2011


New York, Aug 30 2011 5:10PM
The Security Council today extended the mandate of the United Nations peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon until 31 August 2012.

Established in 1978, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is tasked with ensuring that the area between the so-called Blue Line – separating Israel and Lebanon – and the Litani River is free of unauthorized weapons, personnel and assets.

The mission, which has more than 12,000 uniformed personnel on the ground, also cooperates with the Lebanese Armed Forces so they can fulfil their security responsibilities.

In the unanimously adopted resolution extending the mandate, the Council also commended the positive role of UNIFIL, "whose deployment together with the Lebanese Armed Forces has helped to establish a new strategic environment in southern Lebanon."

It also condemned in the strongest terms all terrorist attacks against UNIFIL and urged all parties to "abide scrupulously" by their obligation to respect the safety of UNIFIL and other UN personnel and to ensure that the freedom of movement of UNIFIL is fully respected and unimpeded.

In the most recent attack on UNIFIL, five peacekeepers were injured on 26 July in an incident that took place near Saida, also known as Sidon, 55 kilometres north of the mission's base at Naqoura.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


New York, Aug 18 2011 12:10PM
The head of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon today discussed “critical issues” with Lebanese and Israeli commanders to prevent a recurrence of the exchange of gunfire earlier this month between the two armies across the line separating the countries.
The exchange “once again underscored the extreme sensitivity of the Blue Line and the important role our liaison and coordination arrangement with the parties plays in preventing escalation,” UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Commander Major-General Alberto Asarta Cuevas said after the meeting.
“The tripartite mechanism is at the core of this arrangement, as evident yet again in today’s deliberations when we were able to address a range of critical issues with the parties,” he added, calling on both parties to act with maximum restraint and avoid any kind of unilateral action, including action that might be perceived as provocative by the other side.
He also urged both sides to fully use UNIFIL’s coordination mechanism and address all issues of tension through the peacekeeping force, which has more than 12,000 uniformed personnel on the ground in southern Lebanon.
“Both the parties reaffirmed their continued commitment to the implementation of resolution 1701 and their willingness to work with UNIFIL to maintain the cessation of hostilities,” he said, referring to the Security Council resolution that ended the month-long fighting between Israel and the Lebanese group Hizbollah in 2006.

Earlier this month, UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams warned that incidents such as the exchange of gunfire could easily flare up into something more dangerous.
Maj.-Gen. Asarta Cuevas discussed the implementation of resolution 1701 with the two sides, including the situation along the Blue Line, violations and incidents, visible marking of the Line and the issue of withdrawal of Israeli forces from northern Ghajar, north of the Line.
The UN has repeatedly condemned violations of Lebanese sovereignty by Israeli over-flights as a violation of the resolution, which also calls for disarming all militias and armed groups outside the national army, including Hizbollah. In his regular reports to the Council, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called Hizbollah’s refusal to disarm a serious challenge to the State’s ability to exercise full sovereignty and control over its territory.
Israel has cited the alleged lack of enforcement of the arms embargo against Hizbollah to justify its over-flights. Mr. Ban has reported that while UNIFIL has not found evidence of the unauthorized transfer of arms into its area of operations, it is not in a position to verify Israeli claims of significant breaches of the embargo across the border between Lebanon and Syria.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


New York, Aug 17 2011 2:10PM
A judge in the United Nations-backed tribunal set up to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri today ordered the unsealing of the full indictment that spells out prosecutors’ case against four men accused of carrying out the crime.

In his ruling confirming the indictment, a pre-trial judge of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) found that there was sufficient evidence to proceed to trial, where prosecutors will then have to prove that the accused are guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

“The pre-trial judge found that the indictment meets the requirements with regard to the specific facts and grounds as required under international case law, the statute and the rules (of procedure and evidence),” the judge’s decision states.

Last month, the tribunal released the identities of the four men accused of the crime, which was committed on 14 February 2005.

The four accused are Salim Jamil Ayyash, Mustafa Amine Badreddine, Hussein Hassan Oneissi and Assad Hassan Sabra. All Lebanese, they are charged over the massive car bombing in central Beirut that killed Mr. Hariri and 21 others. International arrest warrants were issued on 8 July.

In his decision today, the pre-trial judge explained why, until now, the indictment was confidential, saying the intention was to “ensure the integrity of the judicial procedure and, in particular, ensure that the search and, where appropriate, apprehension of the accused are carried out effectively.”

Some parts of the judge’s decision and small sections of the indictment remain confidential. They relate to issues that could affect the ongoing prosecution investigation, as well as the privacy and security of victims and witnesses.

Welcoming the judge’s decision, Prosecutor Daniel A. Bellemare said “this unsealing of the indictment answers many questions about the 14 February 2005 attack. The full story will however only unfold in the courtroom, where an open, public, fair and transparent trial will render a final verdict.”

According to the indictment, Mr. Hariri left his Beirut residence on the morning of his killing to attend a session of Lebanon’s Parliament. The team of suspected assassins positioned themselves in several locations to track and observe Mr. Hariri’s convoy, as they had done on previous days.

After leaving Parliament and then visiting a nearby café, Mr. Hariri headed back to his residence. As the convoy passed the St Georges Hotel about 12:55 p.m., a male suicide bomber detonated a large quantity of explosives concealed in the cargo area of a strategically placed Mitsubishi Canter van.

Shortly after the explosion, Mr. Oneissi and Mr. Sabra are accused of calling media outlets to give information on where to find a videotape that had been placed on a tree in a Beirut square.

In the video, later broadcast on television, a man named Ahmad Abu Adass falsely claimed to be the suicide bomber on behalf of a fictitious fundamentalist group using the name “Victory and Jihad in Greater Syria.”

The indictment charges all four men with conspiracy to commit a terrorist act. Mr. Ayyash and Mr. Badreddine are also charged with committing a terrorist act by means of an explosive device, intentional homicide with premeditation, and attempted intentional homicide.

Mr. Oneissi and Mr. Sabra also face charges of being accomplices in the crimes. All charges in the indictment are crimes under Lebanese criminal law.

According to the indictment, Mr. Badreddine was the overall controller of the attack. Mr. Ayyash coordinated the team that was responsible for the actual perpetration of the attack. Mr. Oneissi and Mr. Sabra, along with others, were conspirators and allegedly prepared and delivered the video, which sought to blame the wrong people, in order to shield the conspirators.

The tribunal is an independent court created at the request of the Lebanese Government, with a mandate issued by the Security Council. It is based in The Hague in the Netherlands.

Monday, August 01, 2011


New York, Aug 1 2011 10:10AM
The United Nations said it has opened an investigation into the exchange of fire that occurred early Monday morning between Lebanese and Israeli forces along their common border.
The incident between the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) took place around 7 a.m. local time along the so-called Blue Line that separates the two countries, in the general area of Wazzani, according to the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
"UNIFIL peacekeepers immediately responded to the location in order to contain the situation and prevent any escalation," said Neeraj Singh, spokesperson for the mission.
"The firing has since ceased and the situation in the area is quiet. No casualties have been reported," he added.
UNIFIL Acting Force Commander Brigadier General Santi Bonfanti is in contact with the command of both the LAF and the IDF, urging restraint by both sides.
Respect for the Blue Line is one of the key provisions of Security Council resolution 1701, which ended the conflict that erupted in 2006 between Israel and the Lebanese group Hizbollah.