Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah has denounced a US diplomatic push to bolster the UN peacekeeping force (UNIFIL) that patrols the border between Lebanon and Israel. His comments came ahead of an upcoming Security Council vote to renew the force’s mandate. “The Americans, as a result of Israeli demands, are raising the issue of changing the nature of UNIFIL’s mission,” Nasrallah said in a radio interview marking two decades since the Israeli military withdrew troops that were deployed in southern Lebanon for 18 years. “Israel wants … to have the right to raid and search private properties and the Americans are pressuring [Beirut] on this matter,” Nasrallah added. While the Security Council last year renewed UNIFIL’s mandate for 12 months, the corresponding resolution included a requirement for the UN secretary-general to conduct a comprehensive evaluation on the organization prior to June 1, 2020. Earlier this month, the US ambassador to the UN claimed that some 10,000 peacekeepers were being “prevented from fulfilling [their] mandate,” and that Hizbullah had “been able to arm itself and expand operations, putting the Lebanese people at risk.” UNIFIL was created in 1978 but had its responsibilities expanded following the 2006 war between Israel and Hizbullah. It is tasked with guaranteeing the ceasefire that ended the war, which was enshrined in UN Security Council Resolution 1701. That motion called for Hizbullah’s total disarmament but the Iranian-backed terror group has since acquired up to 150,000 rockets and missiles, most of which are directed at Israel, and many of them stored in residential areas and civilian installations.
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