UN force marks 30 years of peacekeeping in southern Lebanon
Blue helmets representing the 25 different national contingents that make up the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) today marked three decades of peacekeeping in the Middle Eastern nation.
First created by the Security Council in 1978 to confirm an Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, the Force was enhanced in August 2006 to monitor the cessation of hostilities that erupted that summer between the two neighbours.
It is also tasked with supporting the Lebanese armed forces as they deployed throughout south Lebanon, and extending assistance to help ensure humanitarian access to civilian populations and the voluntary and safe return of displaced persons.
Addressing a ceremony at UNIFIL headquarters in Naqoura today, Force Commander Major-General Claudio Graziano noted that UNIFIL has gone through various phases since its inception 30 years ago.
“But UNIFIL’s goal towards maintaining peace and stability in south Lebanon has never faltered and has always maintained its momentum towards bringing normalcy in the area despite the many challenges,” he told the gathering, which also included representatives from the Lebanese armed and security forces, local officials and diplomats.
The Force Commander dedicated the day to the memory of the 270 UNIFIL peacekeepers that have lost their lives in the line of duty since 1978 – 12 of them just during the past year.
UNIFIL currently comprises around 12,500 troops, supported by over 1,000 civilian international and local staff. This includes about 1,500 naval personnel of the UNIFIL Maritime Task Force deployed along the Lebanese coast, at the request of the Government, to support the Lebanese navy in preventing any illegal transfer of arms or related material into the country.
In addition to their mandated responsibilities, UNIFIL personnel have also provided medical, dental and veterinarian aid to the local communities, and its de-miners have destroyed thousands of explosive devices.