Israel demands reform of UN Lebanon force

Jerusalem (AFP) –


Israel has called for the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon to be reformed, accusing it of "zero efficiency", ahead of the renewal of the mission's mandate.

Lebanon and Israel are still technically at war, and the United Nations force, UNIFIL, patrols the border between the two.

Set up in 1978, UNIFIL was beefed up after a month-long devastating war in 2006 between Israel and Lebanon's Iran-backed Shiite militia Hezbollah.

The 10,500-strong force, in coordination with the Lebanese army, is tasked with monitoring a ceasefire and Israeli pullout from a demilitarised zone on the border.

Israel accuses UNIFIL, whose latest mandate expires at the end of August, of not being active enough against Hezbollah.

"It is unable to fulfil its mandate," because Hezbollah is preventing it from doing so, said Israeli General Efraim Defrin.

"All their activities take place... in places where they are allowed to go," he told reporters on Wednesday.

"They are not allowed to go to places which are called private areas."

Israel accuses Hezbollah of stockpiling weapons at the border to prepare for a new war.

"Accurate reporting is the only thing we want, we are not asking for the Israeli point of view in the reports," Defrin said. "We want the real facts."

He pointed on a map to where Israel says three to five people with rifles crossed the "Blue Line" border in late July, before its soldiers opened fire.

Defrin indicated areas where he said UN peacekeepers could not carry out inspections.

"It is unacceptable for us to continue with this situation," said Alon Bar, an Israeli foreign ministry official.

"We require UNIFIL to seek access to everywhere in its responsibility, including private property."

UNIFIL spokesman Andrea Tenenti insisted the force was doing its job.

"Despite the general turmoil that the region has witnessed in recent years, the south of Lebanon has witnessed one of the quietest periods in its recent history," he told AFP.

"The mission has been able to maintain the cessation of hostilities and preserve stability in south of Lebanon since 2006."

In June, UN chief Antonio Guterres called for an improved surveillance capacity of the force, including thermal-imaging cameras, hi-tech binoculars and drones.