The Israeli demand for an expanded mandate for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) allowing UN peacekeepers to operate independently of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) is being viewed as ‘impracticable’ by the the Indian Army.
Israel raised this demand last week after UNIFIL troops raided a suspected Hizbullah arms cache on June 18 in the absence of the LAF and ran into a gun battle in which 14 UN peacekeepers were injured. Israel’s concern is that the UNIFIL’s operational coordination with the LAF results in the covering-up of evidence of Hizbullah rearmament. Israel would like UNIFIL forces to have a more robust mandate and exercise operational independence.
India, however, considers such a mandate impractical. “UNIFIL is a foreign force. How can we deploy without any local support or cooperation?” asks one senior official who preferred to remain anonymous. He added, “Once we start operating independently, we would probably be completely bereft of local support. UNIFIL could then be end up in the position of fighting Israel’s war in Lebanon.” Sources have informed StratPost that the acceptance of such an enhanced mandate would also be a political decision as it would have increased ramifications for Indian peacekeepers operating in Lebanon.
According to the Jerusalem Post: ‘On Saturday (June 18), Lebanese villagers prevented UN peacekeepers from searching an abandoned building near the suspected weapons depot, a Lebanese security official said. The official said dozens of men in Bir e-Salasel surrounded UNIFIL vehicles and ordered the peacekeepers to leave. 14 UNIFIL men were wounded in the incident. When the troops called for backup, the villagers fired at the reinforcements’.
While the Hizbullah claims the discovered arsenal was the remnant of an old cache of explosives, Israel says the cache is evidence of Hizbullah rearming.
Israel had also last week accused Indian peacekeepers belonging to UNIFIL of allowing Lebanese nationals to intrude into Israeli territory, a charge India denies.