|Despite the 20,000 troops deployed in southern Lebanon, the United Nations admits that weapons smuggling from Syria continues unhindered. A German report finds UNIFIL does not patrol after dark.|
Hizbullah terrorists are free to roam at night without fear of being identified by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), according to a report by the German paper Der Spiegel.
Spanish UNIFIL official Richard Ortax admitted to the paper that no patrols are carried out at night “because of the danger involved.” UNIFIL commanders said their function is to “observe changes in the behavior of the local population.”
One junior officer told Der Spiegel he was glad that his battalion had only left its camp once. “It’s absurd,” he said. “We landed here and set up our tent city, but since then we’ve only left the camp to drive around and to make sure that we’re seen.”
The report cites a long tradition of UNIFIL inaction, which it says allowed time for a Finnish contingent to construct a giant sauna and an Indian contingent to decorate its base with traditional Indian artwork.
The UNIFIL troops and the 14,000 Lebanese soldiers stationed in the region add up to a total of around 20,000 troops in the 18-by 31-mile region of southern Lebanon. Another 6,000 troops are still expected to arrive.
The United Nations itself has admitted that Syria was still successfully smuggling arms to the Hizbullah, which neither UNIFIL nor the Lebanese army plan to stop.
Israel has maintained overflights in the region in order to monitor and discourage the smuggling, yet UNIFIL officials condemn the continued Israeli maneuvers. The Lebanese army even attempted to shoot down Israeli fighter jets on Tuesday. France and the European Union have been accusing Israel of violating Resolution 1701 with its flights over Lebanon.
The current state of affairs has led Israeli officials to speak about “rethinking the implementation of Israel’s commitments” made in the context of the UN-brokered cease-fire.
The UN Security Council “noted with regret [that] non-Lebanese militias” in the country had not been disbanded or disarmed, an allusion to the Iranian and Syrian-backed Hizbullah. The statement on Tuesday was termed a “presidential statement,” which is the weakest of all available Security Council actions.
Following the meeting, UN envoy to the region Terje Roed-Larsen explicitly admitted that Syria was actively smuggling weapons into Lebanon. He said that Lebanese government officials “have stated publicly and also in conversations with us that there have been arms coming across the border into Lebanon.”
Roed-Larsen added that Syria itself does not deny the flow of weapons, claiming only that the arms are not being dispatched by the Syrian government. “The consistent position of the government of Syria has been that, ‘Yes, there might be arms smuggling over the border, but this is arms smuggling and the border is porous and very difficult to control,'” Roed-Larsen told reporters.
Roed-Larsen ducked UN responsibility for the smuggling, saying UN troops had not been asked by the Lebanese army to monitor the border.