Security Council Extends Mandate for Peacekeepers
The United Nations Security Council on Friday extended by one year the mandate for UNIFIL, its peacekeeping force patrolling southern Lebanon. The council voted unanimously for the extension, at the same time broadening its powers to police the Lebanese Shi’ite group Hizbullah while backing a cut in the peacekeepers’ maximum-allowable manpower. The ceiling was dropped from 15,000 to 13,000 personnel, although it has been operating at well below that for several years. UNIFIL is seen as having been hesitant to reign in Hizbullah, which has often been involved in cross-border fighting with Israel. Last week, the Jewish state complained that a Hizbullah sniper opened fire on Israeli troops from a position about 100 yards from a UNIFIL outpost, with no reaction by the peacekeepers. It issued a complaint last year when several sophisticated tunnels were found to have been dug beneath the border by Hizbullah, directly under the nose of UNIFIL troops. Israel’s newly appointed ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, issued a statement after Friday’s extension, saying the Lebanese government “will be held responsible and will bear full responsibility for any escalation of tensions or the grave consequences” if Hizbullah continues such anti-Israel activities.
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