Note: Data effective 30 November 1994
LOCATION: Southern Lebanon HEADQUARTERS: Naqoura DURATION: March 1978 to present STRENGTH: 5,187 troops assisted by 59 military observers of UNTSO's Observer Group Lebanon, and approximately 540 international and local civilian staff FATALITIES: 200 FORCE COMMANDER: Major-General Trond Furuhovde (Norway) BACKGROUND In the early 1970s, tension along the Israeli-Lebanon border increased, especially after the relocation of Palestinian armed elements from Jordan to Lebanon. Palestinian commando operations against Israel and Israeli reprisals against Palestinian bases in Lebanon intensified. On 11 March 1978, a commando attack in Israel resulted in many dead and wounded among the Israeli population; the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) claimed responsibility for that raid. In response, Israeli forces invaded Lebanon on the night of 14/15 March, and in a few days occupied the entire southern part of the country except for the city of Tyre and its surrounding area. ESTABLISHMENT OF UNIFIL On 15 March, the Lebanese Government submitted a strong protest to the Security Council against the Israeli invasion, stating that it had no connection with the Palestinian commando operation. On 19 March, the Security Council adopted resolutions 425 (1978) and 426 (1978), in which it called upon Israel immediately to cease its military action and withdraw its forces from all Lebanese territory. It also decided to establish immediately a United Nations interim force for southern Lebanon for an initial period of six months, subject to extension. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was set up with the mandate to confirm the withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon, to restore international peace and security and to assist the Government of Lebanon in ensuring the return of its effective authority in the area. The first UNIFIL troops arrived in the area on 23 March 1978. UNIFIL'S ACTIVITIES Until now, however, it has not been possible for UNIFIL to carry out in full its original mandate. From its inception, the Force had to operate under extremely difficult conditions. The PLO and the Government of Israel never fully accepted the UNIFIL mandate with all its implications. Given these attitudes, the Force was prevented from deploying fully in the area evacuated by the Israeli forces between April and June 1978. In fact, the enclave along the border was turned over to the "de facto forces" (Christian and associated militias supported and supplied by Israel). Israel thus retained a degree of military power in the area and continued its fight against the PLO and its Lebanese allies. UNIFIL's efforts to implement its mandate in these conditions inevitably met with only partial success and caused the Force to suffer significant casualties. In June 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon again. This invasion changed UNIFIL's situation drastically. For three years, UNIFIL in its entirety remained behind the Israeli lines, with its role limited to providing protection and humanitarian assistance to the local population to the extent possible. In 1985, Israel carried out a partial withdrawal, but it retained control of an area in southern Lebanon, manned by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and by Lebanese de facto forces (DFF), the so-called "South Lebanon Army". The situation in southern Lebanon continues to be tense and volatile. The boundaries of the Israeli-controlled area have not been clearly defined but are determined de facto by the forward positions of IDF/DFF. Within the area of operation of UNIFIL, IDF/DFF maintain 72 military positions. IDF/DFF remain targets for attacks by armed groups opposed to the occupation. For their part, IDF/DFF react vigorously to these attacks, often with heavy weapons and with air support from Israel. UNIFIL has thus been prevented from carrying out its mandate. In the circumstances, it endeavours, to the best of its ability, to prevent its area of operations from being used for hostile activities and to protect civilians caught in the conflict. In carrying out its tasks, the Force is sometimes hampered by firing in close vicinity to its positions and personnel. On a few occasions, UNIFIL has itself been the target of violence. UNIFIL's operations are based on a network of positions which are manned 24 hours a day. The Force maintains 45 checkpoints, whose function is to control movement on the principal roads in UNIFIL's area; 95 observation posts, whose function is to observe movement on and off the roads; and 29 checkpoints/observation posts which combine the functions of control and observation. Each is assigned responsibility for ensuring that hostile activities are not undertaken from the area surrounding it. This involves not only keeping watch from the position but also patrolling on foot or by vehicle in its vicinity. In addition, unarmed military observers of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) maintain five observation posts and operate five mobile teams in the area under Israeli control. The UNTSO observers are under the operational control of UNIFIL's Commander. UNIFIL's network of positions and the patrols mounted from them also play a central role in the Force's performance of its humanitarian task. They provide the civilian population with protection and with a source of help if they are subjected to harassment. Within available resources, UNIFIL also provides civilians with medical supplies, water, food, fuel, electricity, engineering work and escort for farmers. UNIFIL medical centres and mobile teams have provided care to an average of 3,000 civilian patients per month and a field dental programme has also been provided. In accordance with its mandate of assisting the Government of Lebanon in ensuring the return of its effective authority in the UNIFIL area, UNIFIL and the Lebanese military authorities worked out arrangements for the transfer to the Lebanese army of responsibility for the western part of the Force's Ghanaian battalion sector. The hand-over, which involved the vacating of eight UNIFIL positions, was completed in early April 1992. In a follow-up hand-over, additional area comprising three villages, including the former Ghanaian battalion headquarters at Marakah, was handed over to the Lebanese Army on 16 February 1993. In July 1994, in his periodic report to the Security Council, the Secretary-General stated that although UNIFIL continued to be prevented from implementing its mandate, its contribution to stability in the region and the protection it provided to the local population remained important. He recommended that the Council extend UNIFIL's mandate for a further period of six months, that is until 31 January 1995. The Security Council approved that recommendation. COMPOSITION OF UNIFIL At present, UNIFIL has 5,187 troops provided by the following countries (figures as at 30 November 1994): COUNTRY, TROOPS Fiji, 646 Finland, 524 France, 411 Ghana, 788 Ireland, 733 Italy, 45 Nepal, 671 Norway, 806 Poland, 563 TOTAL, 5,187 Figures may vary from month to month due to rotation. "Troops" include any infantry, logistics, engineering, medical, move-con, staff, etc. In addition, 59 military observers from UNTSO's Observer Group Lebanon assist the Force in the performance of its tasks. UNIFIL employs some 540 civilian staff, of whom 148 are recruited internationally. FINANCIAL ASPECTS The rough cost to the United Nations of UNIFIL in 1994 was approximately $142.3 million. The costs of the operation are met by the assessed contributions of the United Nations Member States. As at 30 November 1994, total contributions outstanding to the UNIFIL Special Account for the period from the inception of the operation to 31 January 1995 amounted to approximately $232.4 million.