Israel uses Beirut blast pretext to change mandate of UN force in Lebanon

A UNIFIL armoured vehicle is parked on a side road in the southern Lebanese town of Kfar Kila near the border with Israel (Ali Dia - AFP)

Middle East Monitor  /  August 13, 2020

Under the guise of the Beirut blast, the Israeli occupation has been mobilising members of the United Nations (UN) Security Council to change the mandate of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), reported on Wednesday.

Israeli Ynet News reported Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi taking diplomats from some of the Security Council member states on Tuesday to the Israel-Lebanon border, where the Israeli army claims that Hezbollah attempted to infiltrate Israel earlier this month.

Speaking to a group of 12 ambassadors, Ashkenazi stated: “Israel supports the existence of UNIFIL, but it wants full application of its mandate,” claiming that UNIFIL is unable to carry out its full mandate due to Hezbollah.

“Israel cannot remain indifferent in the face of Hezbollah’s attempts to harm its civilians,” Ashkenazi asserted.

He added: “The organisation operates in densely populated urban areas using Lebanese civilians as human shields, as was evident in the recent tragic event in Beirut that caused the deaths of hundreds of innocent people.”

Ynet News also reported US Ambassador to the UN Security Council Kelly Craft stressing the need for a new mandate.

At a closed council meeting held on Tuesday on UNIFIL, whose mandate is up for renewal at the end of the month, Craft expressed: “The US has long reiterated publicly and privately that the status quo in Lebanon is unacceptable.”

The US official added: “Now is the time to empower UNIFIL, end the long complacency and enable the mission to fully achieve what it was set out to accomplish.”

Ynet News confirmed that France is expected this week to circulate a draft resolution to continue UNIFIL’s operations, noting that diplomats are predicting tough negotiations before the mandate expires on 31 August.

Meanwhile, Ynet News also reported Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking with French President Emmanuel Macron via telephone on Tuesday, informing him that Hezbollah’s missiles and arms must be taken out of populated areas in Lebanon.

“Hezbollah is sorely mistaken if it thinks it can solve the crisis in Lebanon by creating a crisis with Israel,” Netanyahu told Macron.