Founded in 1978 to keep the peace after a brief Israeli campaign to drive the Palestine Liberation Organization out of Lebanon, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was granted the more difficult task of keeping military activity out of the southern part of that country following the 2006 war between Israel and Hizballah. Last week, a UNIFIL convoy passing through a Hizballah stronghold came under fire, resulting in the death of an Irish peacekeeper. Sarit Zehavi comments:
UN Security Council Resolution 2650, renewing the peacekeeping force’s mandate last August, clearly stated that UNIFIL’s freedom of movement, and its ability to move without being accompanied by the Lebanese army, must be maintained. In response to the decision, Hizballah issued explicit threats, saying [that the resolution] would turn UNIFIL forces “into occupation forces whose role would be to protect the Israeli enemy by pursuing the people and the resistance”—in other words, calling for an open season on UNIFIL.
For years, UNIFIL soldiers have been described as agents of the “Zionist entity” working for the “enemy peacekeeping forces” Additionally, Hizballah incited against UNIFIL on social media before and after the [recent attack].
This event demonstrates, on the one hand, the international system’s failure to treat Hizballah as a terrorist organization that primarily threatens the security of Lebanon itself. On the other hand, it present an opportunity to turn the equation around. . . . World powers must take advantage of this opportunity to gain leverage over the Lebanese government. Demands to investigate the killing of the Irish soldier and bring those responsible to justice could be a powerful message that the international system will no longer tolerate the strengthening of Hizballah within the Lebanese system, and that its power must be limited.