The UN Security Council has extended the UN peacekeeping force along the Israeli-Syrian border, warning that events in the region could impact its operations.
The 15-member council voted unanimously Wednesday to renew the mandate of the more than 1,000-strong force for six months until June 30.
The UN Disengagement Observer Force was established in 1974, following the 1973 Yom Kippur war, to monitor the disengagement of Israeli and Syrian forces in the Golan Heights.
The council resolution, co-sponsored by the US and Russia, doesn’t directly mention Syria’s ongoing crackdown on demonstrators, instead noting “evolving conditions in the region could have an impact on the functioning of the force.”
The resolution comes on the heels of a roadside bombing targeting French peacekeepers near Tyre in southern Lebanon, and two rocket launches by terrorists in UNIFIL’s bailwik targeting Israel.
“Such matters do not happen just like that. It is a Syrian message from Assad through his friends in Lebanon,” former Lebanese prime minister and Future Movement leader Saad Hariri said of the attack.
While Hariri did not directly accuse the Syrian-allied Hizbullah terrorist organization for carrying out the attack, Lebanese Forces party leader Samir GeaGea had no such qualms.
“Hizbullah is directly or indirectly responsible for the operations carried out against UNIFIL. Therefore, the party is responsible for the fate of the south,” Geagea told reporters.
“In the south, the real authority belongs to Hizbullah and the real security presence in the south is for Hizbullah,” he said.
“We all know that Hizbullah is responsible for all the incidents that happen in the south. Terrorist groups accused of carrying out these operations cannot exist in the south without Hizbullah’s knowledge or its cover,” Geagea added.
Hizbullah has denied involvement in the attack.
Nontheless, regional observers say Hizbullah – whose arms and militias outstrip those of the Lebanese military – may move to seize Beirut by force should the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad collapse in the coming months.
Such a move could render UNIFIL – already criticized for its lack of efficacy – moot.
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