Lebanon: UN force rises above 12,000 as troops arrive from Qatar

Lebanon: UN force rises above 12,000 as troops arrive from Qatar

The enhanced United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon, sent to monitor the end of hostilities after last year’s conflict between Israel and Hizbollah, now numbers over 12,000, the mission said today, while reporting that two of its de-miners were injured trying to rid the country of the massive number of cluster bombs left over from the fighting.

“The number of UNIFIL (UN Interim Force in Lebanon) peacekeepers rose above 12,000 following today’s arrival of the main contingent soldiers from Qatar. The 184 newcomers further bolster the 28-nation strong force in assisting the Lebanese Army in securing stability in southern Lebanon,” the mission said.

Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 34 days of fighting last August, strengthened UNIFIL to a maximum of 15,000 troops and mandated a complete Israeli withdrawal, together with Lebanese army deployment in southern Lebanon.

In addition to their core activities, UNIFIL peacekeepers also carry out daily humanitarian work, ranging from de-mining to providing educational programmes and medical aid. Two Belgian de-miners were injured on Monday by shrapnel in a cluster bomb explosion during a mine-clearance operation in the vicinity of Kunin, near the town of Bint Jubayl in the south, although the injuries were not life threatening.

“UNIFIL de-miners destroyed more than 4,000 explosive devices during the first four weeks of January 2007. These included rockets, grenades, cluster bombs and anti-tank and anti-personnel mines,” the mission said.

“Elsewhere, UNIFIL continued providing other humanitarian assistance to civilians, with more than 2,000 medical checks and around 350 dental inspections being carried out each month.”

UNIFIL also announced on Monday the launch of a Spanish language programme in the southeast Lebanese town of Marjayoun with around 300 students already enrolled and the teaching being provided by 35 Spanish officers.