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UNIFIL base, 1981
The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, or UNIFIL, was created by the United Nations, with the adoption of Security Council Resolution 425 and 426 on March 19, 1978, to confirm Israelimarker withdrawal from Lebanonmarker, restore international peace and security, and help the Government of Lebanon restore its effective authority in the area. The first UNIFIL troops were deployed in the area on March 23, 1978; these troops were reassigned from other UN peacekeeping operations in the area (namely the United Nations Emergency Force and the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force Zonemarker).

Prior to the 1982 Lebanon War on 2 January 1982, in which two Ghanaian soldiers guarding a UNIFIL position were attacked by unidentified persons and one of the soldiers was shot and subsequently died. During the 1982 Lebanon War, UN positions were overrun, primarily by the SLA forces under Saad Haddad. This was the Lebanese collaborator forces supported by the IDF. During the occupation, UNIFIL's function was mainly to provide humanitarian aid. Beginning in 1985, Israel scaled back its permanent positions in Lebanon, although this process was punctuated by brief invasions and bombings, as in Operation Accountability in 1993 and Operation Grapes of Wrath in 1996. In 1999, Israel undertook a withdrawal, which concluded in 2000 and enabled UNIFIL to resume its military tasks. The Lebanese government claims that the Shebaa farmsmarker area is Lebanese territory, although the UN considers it to be Syrian territory under Israeli military occupation. They contend that this dispute gives continued legal sanction to armed anti-Israeli groups in Lebanon (though the UN has officially certified that Israel has fully withdrawn from all areas it occupied after 1973).

UNIFIL's current mandate expires on August 31, 2010.


UNIFIL road block in Lebanon, 1981
UNIFIL is tasked with achieving the following objectives:
  • Confirm the withdrawal of Israelimarker forces from southern Lebanonmarker
  • Restore international peace and security
  • Assist the Government of Lebanon in ensuring the return of its effective authority in the area

Mandating resolutions by the United Nations:

Post-2006 war operations

UNIFIL is currently deployed in Southern Lebanon (south of the Litani River) and primarily along the United Nations-drawn Blue Line, which is the border between Israelmarker and Lebanonmarker. The force's activities have centered around monitoring military activity between Hezbollah and the Israeli Defense Forces with the aim of reducing tensions and allaying tension along the border. UNIFIL has also played an important role in clearing landmines, assisting displaced persons and providing humanitarian assistance to civilians in the underdeveloped region of Southern Lebanon. Under UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which passed as a result of the 2006 Lebanon War, its mandate and rules of engagement changed. The mandate changed to allow up to 15,000 personnel in order to assist the Lebanese Armed Forces in deploying in Southern Lebanon to implement the Lebanese government's sovereignty. The rules of engagement changed to allow the troops to open fire in certain cases: mostly in cases of self-defense but also in order to protect civilians, UN personnel and facilities.[74915] The new resolution states that UNIFIL can “take all the necessary action in areas of deployment of its forces, and as it deems with its capabilities, to ensure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind.”On August 27, 2006, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that UNIFIL would not intercept arms shipments from Syriamarker, unless requested to do so by Lebanon.

Maritime Task Force

After the 2006 Lebanon War, the UNIFIL Maritime Task Force (MTF) was established to assist the Lebanese Naval Forces in preventing the smuggling of illegal shipments in general and armament shipments in particular. With its establishment in October 2006, the force was lead by the German Navy which was also the major contributor to the force. The Germans lead the MTF up until February 29, 2008 when they passed control over to EUROMARFOR - a force made up of ships from Portugalmarker, Spainmarker, Italymarker and Francemarker (of which the latter three countries sent vessels to the force in Lebanon). As of May 2008, the German Navy is still the biggest contributor to the UNIFIL MTF sending four vessels. These four vessels are complemented by two Italianmarker, two Greekmarker, one Frenchmarker, one Spanishmarker, one Bulgarianmarker and one Turkishmarker vessel to comprise the 12-vessel UNIFIL Maritime Task Force.


C.I.S.S. humanitarian staff with Italian UNIFIL soldiers in Lebanon
As of April 30, 2008, UNIFIL employs 12,341 military personnel, supported by some 307 international civilian and 606 local civilian staff and it is headed by Italianmarker Force Commander Major-General Claudio Graziano.

To date UNIFIL has suffered 272 fatalities: 261 troops, two military observers, five international civilian staff, and four local staff.

Debate over UNIFIL presence and neutrality

UNIFIL has fallen out of favour with both Israelmarker and Hezbollah. Israel has criticized the force for, amongst other things, maintaining a dialogue with Hezbollah, which it views as a terrorist organization, for treating Israeli and Lebanese (and more specifically, Hezbollah) violations of security council resolution 1701 equally, while Israel views its violations of Lebanese airspace as less severe than Lebanese violations including crossings of the blue line and rocket launchings. UNIFIL was accused of complicity in the fatal abduction of IDF soldiers in October 2000, and Israel further blamed it for obstructing its investigation by denying the existence of and then once the existence was leaked, refusing to supply videos of the attack for several months.

Prior to the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict of July 2006, Israel had been lobbying for UNIFIL to either take a more active role vis-a-vis Hezbollah (for example, preventing Hezbollah from stationing near UNIFIL posts to fire at the IDF and into northern Israel) or to step out of the region (thereby voiding the Lebanese government’s excuse for not deploying Lebanese Armed Forces along the border).

UNIFIL also came under criticism during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict for broadcasting detailed reports of Israeli troop movements on their website which "could have exposed Israeli soldiers to grave danger", while making no such reports about Hezbollah.

Hezbollah supporters have accused UNIFIL of siding with Israel, especially since the passage of Resolution 1701 which they view as one-sided. On October 16, 2006 Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah declared that the UN force had “come to protect Israel, not Lebanon”.

Conflict in 2006

According to UNIFIL press releases, there have been dozens of such incidents of UN posts coming under fire during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict. In his 21 July 2006 report about the UNIFIL activities 21 January-18 July 2006, the UN Secretary-General stated that "Some Hezbollah positions remained in close proximity to United Nations positions, especially in the Hula area, posing a significant security risk to United Nations personnel and equipment."

Combat-related incidents

The entrance to the UN base where four UN peacekeepers were killed during the recent conflict
  • During a day in which Hezbollah opened small arms fire at a UNIFIL convoy, four soldiers from the Ghanaian battalion were lightly injured after an Israeli tank shell hit a UNIFIL position during the fighting in southern Lebanon on 24 July 2006.
  • Shrapnel from tank shells fired by the IDF seriously wounded an Indian soldier on 16 July 2006
  • On 25 July 2006 four UNTSO observers from Austriamarker, Canadamarker, Chinamarker and Finlandmarker were killed when an Israeli aerial bomb struck an OGL patrol base near Khiammarker in southern Lebanon. According to the UN, the Israelis claimed to be responding to "Hezbollah fire from that vicinity" and the four had taken shelter in a bunker under the post. The area around the site was shelled a total of 14 times by Israeli artillery throughout the day despite warning calls made by UN personnel to the IDF. Later, a rescue team was also shelled as it tried to clear the rubble.


Italian Soldier on guard during UNIFIL 2 - 2007.jpg

Following the cease-fire, the UNIFIL will receive vast reinforcement, up to 15 000 men, and heavy equipment. Francemarker is committed to increase her complement from 400 to 2 000 men and send Leclerc heavy tanks and AMX 30 AuF1 self-propelled artillery [74916], in addition to the forces deployed in Opération Baliste. Italymarker will send 3000 troops.[74917] Qatarmarker will send between 200 and 300 troops. [74918]

A naval component of UNIFIL is being set up to assist the Lebanese Navy preventing arms proliferation to Hezbollah. This force is under the command of a German admiral with the majority of vessels being provided by the German Navy.

Indonesian contingent has received 12 VAB(Véhicule de l'Avant Blindé) on February 17, 2007, as the part of the second wave of shipment from the agreement between the Frenchmarker and Indonesianmarker governments. Amongst the equipments sent with the second wave of VABs are 10 tool boxes (pioneering equipment), 10 armored vehicle radio communications unit, HMG (Heavy Machine Gun) shooter shield, and 40 water jerrycans.[74919]

Incidents involving Israeli planes

On the 3 October 2006, an Israeli fighter penetrated the defence perimeter of the French frigate Courbet, triggering a diplomatic incident. Israel apologised after official protests from the French government [74920] [74921].

On 24 October, six Israeli F-16s flew over a Germanmarker vessel patrolling off Israel's coast just south of the Lebanese border. The German Defence Ministry said that the planes had given off infrared decoys and one of the aircraft had fired two shots into the air, which had not been specifically aimed. The Israeli military said that a German helicopter took off from the vessel without having coordinated this with Israel, and denied vehemently having fired any shots at the vessel and said "as of now" it also had no knowledge of the jets launching flares over it. Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz telephoned his German counterpart Franz Josef Jung to clarify that 'Israel has no intention to carry out any aggressive actions' against the German peacekeeping forces in Lebanon, who are there as part of UNIFIL to enforce an arms embargo against Hezbollah. Germany confirmed the consultations, and that both sides were interested in maintaining good cooperation.

On 31 October 2006, eight Israeli F-15s flew over many areas of Lebanon, including Beirut. The IAF jets also flew over a French peacekeeper position in Lebanon. According to the French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, the planes came in at what was interpreted as an attack formation, and the peacekeepers were "seconds away" from firing at the jets.

Post-conflict situation

On 24 June 2007, six UNIFIL soldiers (three Colombiansmarker and three Spaniardsmarker) were killed after their vehicle was hit by an explosive device; two others (both Spanish) were injured in the incident. No group has yet admitted responsibility. The Israeli military believed the attack to be the work of al-Qaeda/Global Jihad members.On January 8, 2008 a roadside bomb injured two Irish UNIFIL soldiers 35 km south of Beirut.On March 30, 2008 the UNIFIL patrol, following a suspicious pickup truck that was towing a trailer in the western sector of UNIFIL's area of operations, was blocked by two other vehicles with five armed persons. According to the UNIFIL spokeswoman Yasmina Bouzianne, the patrol challenged the armed people who left the area after about three minutes before a positive identification could be made. The Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Ambassador Dan Carmon, met with UNIFIL commander, Maj.-Gen. Claudio Graziano, on 15 August 2008, after Israel was accused of unilaterally violating United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 by the almost daily overflights of Lebanese airspace, the continued occupation of the village of Ghajar and Israel's refusal to submit maps of areas on which it dropped cluster munitions during the 2006 Lebanese war.

Countries involved

The following countries have either committed troops, are currently active in UNIFIL, or have offered support to UNIFIL in some way. Countries in bold were part of the original UNIFIL force.
Country Committed Forces (estimated*) Support Roles
394Expatica Communications Two Belgian generals toserve on Lebanon mission[74922] Accessed September 14, 2006 de-miners, medical and reconstruction teams 1 Karel Doorman class frigate
160 1 Wielingen Class Frigate
China, People’s Republic ofmarker 1,000 200 engineers currently in Lebanon clearing mines and unexploded ordnance
50 2 patrol boats as force protection for German contingent and 144 logistic soldiers
250 reconstructing roads, bridges and other infrastructure destroyed
Francemarker 2,000 ground troops including 13 French Leclerc tanks; in charge of UNIFIL ground forces until February 2007.

In addition, French Navy ships with 1,700 men are deployed off Lebanon in Opération Baliste, and assisting in UNIFIL operations.
2,400 naval ships to secure the Lebanese coast and prevent arms smuggling
Ghanamarker 650
176-196 Elli-class frigate, the HS Kanaris, to patrol against arms smugglers
Indiamarker 672 01 x Standard Infantry Battalion of the Indian Army (Regulars), along with support components from the Corps of Engineers (Sappers), Corps of Signals and other logistic Arms and Services.
1,136 850 men in mechanized infantry battalion, 75 men in military police unit, 200 men in force protection company, 11 men UNIFIL staff, 111 men aboard KRI Diponegoro (Sigma class corvette)
Irelandmarker 150 perimeter protection for Finnish troops
Italymarker 2,500 ground troops; assumed charge of UNIFIL ground forces in February 2007
350 Infantry units and medical team. Security task in Tyremarker area and associated supply mission. Medical aid for local people.
360 Administrative(200) and patrol/quick reaction team (160; including commandos and special forces);
850 infantry battalion
150 1 Karel Doorman class frigate
Norwaymarker 100 naval ships to secure the Lebanese coast and prevent arms smuggling
Polandmarker 500
140 engineering unit
400 rebuilding infrastructure
6 medical team
14 3 Staff Officers, 8 men strong Recon element, 3 men strong Logistical element (as of November 2007)
1,500 de-mining and beach cleaning
40 1 Göteborg class corvette
495 engineering unit to help rebuild damaged bridges and roads; Turkish naval frigate patrolling off the Lebanese coast see also
Total 13,817
* Because the troop figures come from second hand sources, the exact numbers can not be accurately verified. In most cases the sources round and/or estimate the figures to the closet proximity.

UNIFIL leadership

Personal representatives of the Secretary-General for Southern Lebanon

Start Date End Date Name Country
March 1978 Jean Cuq
2000 January 15, 2001 Rolf Goran Knutsson
January 15, 2001 April 2005 Staffan de Mistura
April 2005 Present Geir Pedersen

Commanders of the force

Start Date End Date Name Country
March 1978 February 1981 Emmanuel A. Erskine
February 1981 May 1986 William O'Callaghan
June 1986 June 1988 Gustav Hägglund
July 1988 February 1993 Lars-Eric Wahlgren
February 1993 February 1995 Trond Furuhovde
April 1995 October 1, 1997 Stanislaw Franciszek Wozniak
February 1997 September 1999 Jioje Konousi Koronte
September 30, 1999 December 1, 1999 James Sreenan
November 16, 1999 May 15, 2001 Seth Kofi Obeng
May 15 August 17, 2001 Ganesan Athmanathan
August 17, 2001 February 17, 2004 Lalit Mohan Tewari
February 17, 2004 February 2, 2007 Alain Pellegrini
February 2, 2007 Present Claudio Graziano

Commanders of the Maritime Task Force

Start Date End Date Name Country
September 2006 October 16, 2006 Giuseppe De Giorgi
October 16, 2006 March 2007 Andreas Krause
March 2007 September 2007 Karl-Wilhelm Bollow
September 2007 February 2008 Christian Luther
February 2008 Present Ruggiero di Biase


To date, UNIFIL has suffered 258 fatalities: 249 military personnel, 2 military observers, 3 international civilian staff, and 4 local staff.Fatalities by nationality includeBelgium: 4,Fiji: 35,Finland: 11,France: 30,Ghana: 29,India: 2,Iran: 1,Ireland: 47,Italy: 6,Lebanon: 6,Malaysia: 1,Nepal: 25,Netherlands: 9,Nigeria: 10,Norway: 21,Philippines: 1,Poland: 7,Senegal: 16,Spain: 7,Sweden: 7,United Kingdom: 3.

31 May 1999: An Irish soldier, Pte. William Kedian was killed when the IDF/DFF mortared a UNIFIL position.

25 September 2006: A French engineer officer was killed in a road accident near the town of Sofar.

24 June 2007: Six Spanish soldiers were killed in a bomb blast between Marjayoun and Khiam.

25 July 2007: A French soldier was killed near the village of Shama while clearing unexploded munitions.

11 October 2007: A British man, Craig Appleby (36) was killed while clearing munitions near Bint Jbeil.

12 November 2007: Two French soldiers were wounded as a result of the accidental discharge of a weapon. One of the wounded men subsequently died while being evacuated to Hospital.

15 June 2008: A Spanish soldier was killed and two injured in a road accident.

3 September 2008: A Belgian soldier was killed near the village of Aitaroun while clearing munitions left over from the 2006 conflict.


Easter catholic mass in South Lebanon with French UNIFIL contingent- 2004
  • "UNIFIL, I'm afraid, is a joke. They’ve been there for 26 years and since then, there have been so many skirmishes [along the border]." - former Israeli ambassador Itamar Rabinovich, 20 July 2006

  • "We didn’t like very much UNIFIL which was very useless and very helpless. Look what happened. Did you hear of any particular efforts of the United Nations UNIFIL force in the south of Lebanon to prevent the attacks against Israel in the first place. So they were not useful and that is why we were unhappy with them." Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, August 2, 2006

  • " UNIFIL came here in 1978. We were, because at that time there was no Hezbollah here, accused of being sympathetic to Palestinians. A peacekeeping force does not come here with pre-set enemies. There is no enemy [inaudible] in a peacekeeping force. UNIFIL is a peacekeeping force. It's not an Israeli combat force or an anti-terror force, as they would like it to be. As long as we don't serve their direct interests, they are going to denigrate it as much as they can." Timur Goksel, former spokesman of the UNIFIL, July 26, 2006


  1. UN Doc S/15194 of 10 June 1982 Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon
  2. United Nations Security Council extends UN force in Lebanon until 31 July, unanimously adopting Resolution 1655 (2006) Retrieved on 2006-08-12
  3. United Nations Security Council extends United Nations force in Lebanon, unanimously adopting Resolution 1697 (2006) Retrieved on 2006-08-12
  4. United Nations Security Council calls for end to hostilities between Hizbollah, Israel, unanimously adopting Resolution 1701 (2006) Retrieved on 2006-08-12
  5. The civilian staff statistics are only updated as of February 29, 2008
  6. CNN, 3 August 2001 U.N. report: Kidnapped Israeli soldiers may be dead
  7. Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (for the period from 21 July 2004 to 20 January 2005) Document S/2005/36
  8. Haaretz Israel accuses UN of collaborating with Hezbollah Retrieved 2006-10-28
  9. United Nations UNIFIL press releases
  10. See paragraph 28 in Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (S/2006/560) Accessed 31 July 2006
  11. UNIFIL Press Release, Naqoura, 25 July 2006
  12. UNIFIL Press Release, Naqoura, 17 July 2006
  13. UNIFIL Untitled Press Release 26 July 2006
  14. Israeli jets fly low over Beirut, BBC
  15. Israeli warplanes fly low over Beirut, suburbs, Reuters
  16. IDF checking French claim its UN troops almost fired at IAF jets, AP in Haaretz
  17. Lebanon blast kills UN soldiers
  18. Al-Qaida suspected in attack that killed 5 UNIFIL troops
  19. The Daily Star UNIFIL confirms incident with gunmen accessed April 24, 2008
  20. Ha'aretz 16 August 2008, Israeli envoy meets UNIFIL chief over praise for Hezbollah, censure for Israel By Shlomo Shamire
  21. News Brunei Troops To Join Malaysia In Lebanon Accessed September 14, 2006
  22. Daily Express Accord on Trans-Borneo Highway Accessed September 14, 2006
  23. Naharnet Bulgaria Approves Sending 160-Crew Frigate to Lebanon Accessed September 30, 2006
  24. Lebanon latest hotspot as China deploys peacekeepers Accessed September 14, 2006
  25. Haaretz China to send as many as 1,000 peacekeeping troops to Lebanon Accessed September 14, 2006
  26. Danish Navy 2 missilfartøjer men ingen korvet til Libanon Accessed October 2, 2006
  27. Helsingin Sanomat President approves Lebanon force Accessed September 14, 2006
  28. Herald Tribune Ireland to deploy 150 troops to United Nations force in Lebanon Accessed September 14, 2006
  29. EiTB24 Italian troops land in Lebanon strengthening renewed UNIFIL Accessed September 14, 2006
  30. Making the Ceasefire Stick Accessed September 14, 2006
  31. Associated Press French Tanks Give Teeth to U.N. Force Accessed September 14, 2006
  32. Forbes France in Lebanon: the strength of hesitation Accessed September 14, 2006
  33. Germany sends troops to Lebanon Accessed September 14, 2006
  34. China Daily Germany oks Lebanon mission Accessed September 14, 2006
  35. Raw Story Media, Inc. UN opens meeting on Lebanon troops Accessed September 14, 2006
  36. India to keep existing troops in UNIFIL for 'time being' Accessed September 14, 2006
  37. Raw Story Media, Inc. Indonesian soldiers off to Lebanon in late December Accessed December, 2008 is not include 1 KRI diponegoro (sigma class corvettes)
  38. Helsingin Sanomat Indonesian leader praises Finns for contribution to Aceh peace process Accessed September 14, 2006
  39. Suara Karya Online Tiga Kontingen Garuda Diberangkatkan ke Lebanon
  40. Antara News KRI Diponegoro Siap Diberangkatkan ke Lebanon
  41. The Irish Times 150 Irish troops to join UN interim force in Lebanon Accessed September 14, 2006
  42. Italian Army[1] Accessed April 3, 2007
  43. ANSA Peacekeepers need political support Accessed September 14, 2006
  44. Korea Picks Site for Military Camp in Lebanon, Korea Times. Korea Times, April 6, 2007, Retrieved on August 31, 2007.
  46. Malaysia's Prime Minister's Office
  47. Islamic Republic News Agency Nepal to send 850 troops to war torn Lebanon Accessed September 14, 2006
  48. Annan Ends his Visit to Beirut after Touring War-Ravaged South Lebanon Accessed September 14, 2006
  49. Netherlands Ministry of Defence NEDERLANDS MARINESCHIP NAAR LIBANON Accessed October 2, 2006
  50. Herald Tribune Norway to send four ships, crew to U.N. peacekeeping force for Lebanon Accessed September 14, 2006
  51. Sending MTBs Accessed October 2, 2006
  52. Asian Tribune U.N. Force Looks More European, Less Multinational Accessed September 14, 2006
  53. Raw Story Media, Inc. Poland to boost Lebanon UNIFIL force to 500 troops Accessed September 14, 2006
  54. Naharnet Portuguese UNIFIL Troops to Head to Lebanon Next Week Accessed October 28, 2006
  55. Syrian Arab News Agency Russia Sends 1200 Soldiers to Lebanon Accessed September 14, 2006
  56. People's Daily Online Spanish troops hope to help speed up Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon Accessed September 14, 2006
  57. Daily Star Western envoys discuss deployments to UNIFIL Accessed September 14, 2006
  58. Swedish armed forces HMS Gävle på väg søderut Accessed October 2, 2006
  59. Turkish Weekly The Turkish UNIFIL Troops Set off for Lebanon Accessed November 9, 2006
  61. Mass Exodus Continues as Lebanon Seeks Aid
  62. Times Online (UK) The Times interview with Ehud Olmert: full transcript Accessed August 3, 2006
  63. Democracy Now!, Kofi Annan Says Israel's Fatal Attack on UN Force in Lebanon was "Apparently Deliberate"; Longtime UN Official Says Israel Knew Site Was UN Base

See also


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