Most Blue Helmets Now in Place in Southern Lebanon, Says UN Force Chief
New York, Oct 19 2006 7:00PM
Considerable progress has been achieved in southern Lebanon since the Security Council resolution ending the conflict
between Israel and Hizbollah, and most of the expected force of blue helmets to monitor the cessation of hostilities has
now been deployed, the senior United Nations commander in Lebanon said today.
Briefing reporters at UN Headquarters in New York, Maj.-Gen. Alain Pellegrini said the UN Interim Force in Lebanon
(UNIFIL) has 7,200 soldiers on the ground, including a contingent of 1,500 Germans that is part of the taskforce
designated to protect Lebanon’s maritime boundary.
Resolution 1701, adopted by the Council on 11 August to end the 34-day conflict in the Middle East, allows for up to
15,000 UN peacekeepers, but in response to a question Maj.-Gen. Pellegrini described that figure as a ceiling and said
the Mission may not need to have more than about 10,000 soldiers.
“I’m very pleased to be able to report that considerable progress has been made since the adoption of resolution 1701,”
he said, describing the deployment as a “rapid expansion’ and noting the mix of European and non-European contributing
The near total withdrawal of Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) from southern Lebanon has been the most significant event
since the resolution was passed, Maj.-Gen. Pellegrini said, and had occurred “without any major disruptions.” The
Lebanese military has also fully deployed up to the Golan Heights.
“An appropriate solution” is still being sought for the removal of Israeli forces from Al Ghajar, the one village which
they still occupy. Al Ghajar is located on Lebanon’s border with the Golan Heights and has Israeli, Lebanese and Syrian
Maj.-Gen. Pellegrini said the aim would be to have a UNIFIL unit stationed inside the northern part of the village to
enable Lebanese armed forces to enter escorted by blue helmets to affirm their authority over that section and to enable
Israelis responsible for social and medical support for their citizens to cross the Blue Line.
Israeli breaches of Lebanese airspace remains “our major concern” and they represent a clear violation of the
resolution. Although UNIFIL has been dealing with these violations diplomatically, he said the Mission might later use
force. “If diplomatic means should not be enough, maybe we can consider other ways.”
In response to a question, Maj.-Gen. Pellegrini said UNIFIL had no evidence of any weapons smuggling from Syria and had
also not found any illegal weapons inside the Mission’s area of operations.