November 2009 Monthly Forecast

Posted 2 November 2009
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MIDDLE EAST

Lebanon

Expected Council Action
The Secretary-General’s next report on resolution 1701, adopted in 2006 at the end of the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel, is due on 31 October. Council members are expected to consider the report in early November and be briefed by the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Michael Williams, and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO).

At press time it seemed unlikely that the Council would take any formal action. topfull forecast

Key Recent Developments
On 27 October the Council was briefed on the implementation of resolution 1559 in Lebanon by the Special Envoy for that issue, Terje Roed-Larsen. (Adopted in 2004, resolution 1559 called for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon, disarmament of all militias, and extension of the government’s control over all its territory.)

On 27 August the Council adopted resolution 1884 which renewed the mandate of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) until 31 August 2010. In addition, this resolution welcomed the Secretary-General’s plans to conduct a review of UNIFIL’s operational capacity. At time of writing it seemed that DPKO would send a technical assessment mission in late 2009 with results of the review expected in early 2010.

The upcoming Secretary-General’s report is not expected to diverge substantially from the conclusions in other recent reports. The 29 June report noted that cessation of hostilities continued to hold. It also reported the positive development in May of Israel’s handover to UNIFIL of cluster munitions maps. However, Israeli overflights of Lebanese air space continued and the Israeli Defense Forces continued to patrol Ghajar, a village north of the Blue Line. Both are violations of resolution 1701. Hezbollah maintained significant military capacity in violation of resolutions 1559 and 1701.

The upcoming report is likely to describe several recent incidents in southern Lebanon which may constitute further violations of resolution 1701 by both Hezbollah and Israel, but which do not materially change the underlying situation. Williams met the head of the Arab League on 21 October to discuss these incidents and on 28 October the Secretary-General urged all parties to exercise maximum restraint.

On 14 July a weapons cache, apparently belonging to Hezbollah, exploded in Khirbat Silim in southern Lebanon. UNIFIL conducted an investigation into the incident but found no evidence that the weapons and ammunition had been smuggled into its area of operations since 2006 (when resolution 1701 was adopted). UNIFIL shared the report on its investigation with the parties on 11 September.

On 18 July several UNIFIL soldiers were injured by stone-throwing protesters trying to stop the investigation into the 14 July explosion. On 6 August the Secretary-General signalled his concern about this obstruction to UNIFIL’s freedom of movement within its areas of operations in a letter to the Council.

On 11 September two rockets were fired into Israel from Lebanese territory, reportedly by Palestinian militias. Israel retaliated by firing 12 artillery shells. A similar incident occurred on 27 October. The next day Lebanese forces found and deactivated four rockets. The incidents are under investigation by UNIFIL and Williams met with a Hezbollah official regarding the 27 October exchange of fire.

On 12 October there was an explosion in a residential building in Tayr Filsi in southern Lebanon. Media reports indicate that the building belonged to a Hezbollah member and have suggested two possible explanations: the explosion was caused by dismantling an Israeli shell left over from 2006 or a Hezbollah rocket exploded by accident. UNIFIL, in cooperation with the Lebanese Armed Forces, is investigating.

There were further explosions on 17 and 18 October. UNIFIL has said that preliminary indications are that the explosions were caused by the detonation of underground sensors, apparently placed in Lebanese territory by the Israeli Defense Forces during the 2006 war. UNIFIL is investigating. According to 19 October comments by the UN spokesperson, Israeli aircraft were hovering for prolonged periods of time over the area of the investigation. Media reports have characterised these sensors as “listening devices” and quote a Lebanese security official alleging that two sensors were blown up by Israel via remote control after their discovery and that one sensor was destroyed by the Lebanese army.

Subsequently in comments to the media, Lebanese President Michel Sleiman on 20 October accused Israel of spying in violation of resolution 1701. Previously, in May and June Lebanese authorities had arrested several individuals suspected of spying for Israel. Lebanon sent letters to the Council detailing these arrests and considered the presence of Israeli spy networks in Lebanon a violation of resolution 1701.

Human Rights-Related Developments
Since the Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon presented its report to the Human Rights Council (HRC) on 1 December 2006, various implementation activities have been taking place involving the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva and its regional office in Beirut. A working group on protection, co-chaired by the OHCHR and the High Commissioner for Refugees, is looking into human rights aspects of economic and social recovery programmes, emphasising a rights-based approach to health, education and housing. The extent of progress in these implementation activities will be apparent when Lebanon undergoes its Universal Periodic Review by the HRC on 1 December 2010.

Key Issues
The numerous incidents in southern Lebanon in recent months indicate continued violations of resolution 1701 and as such are an issue for the Council.

Related issues include the regular Israeli overflights, its occupation of Ghajar and the recent allegations of spying and the fact that Hezbollah remains armed and rockets continue to be fired into Israel.

Questions regarding possible violations of the arms embargo also continue.

The issue of Sheb’a Farms remains frozen.

An underlying issue is the absence of a Lebanese government due to the inability to agree on a cabinet, which has yet to be formed after the 7 June elections.

Options
One option is to take no action, as has been the practice since April 2008, which was the last time the Council issued a presidential statement on resolution 1701.

Others options include issuing a press or presidential statement:

  • welcoming the Secretary-General’s report and progress made on implementation of resolution 1701;
  • urging the parties to fully meet their obligations on outstanding elements of resolution 1701; and
  • encouraging the parties in Lebanon to reconcile their differences and facilitate the formation of a government (especially in light of Lebanon’s upcoming membership in the Security Council in January).

Council Dynamics
Council members seem to accept that full implementation of resolution 1701 is likely only as part of a larger solution to regional issues.

Some believe that any advances in resolving the continued 1701 violations will most probably be linked to progress in US relations with Syria and Iran and with a renewal of Israeli-Syrian talks. While there have been initial attempts by the US to reengage with Iran and Syria, it is too early to determine what the effects may be in the context of Lebanon.

Regarding the UNIFIL review, it is related to the larger UK-French initiative to review all UN peacekeeping operations and is not specific to Lebanon.

Council members are increasingly concerned that a Lebanese government should be formed sooner rather than later and no doubt hope for progress on this before Lebanon joins the Council in January.

France is the lead country on Lebanon in the Council.

UN Documents

Selected Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1884 (27 August 2009) renewed the UNIFIL mandate until 31 August 2010.
  • S/RES/1701 (11 August 2006) called for a cessation of hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel and called for full implementation of resolutions 1680 and 1559.
  • S/RES/1680 (17 May 2006) strongly encouraged Syria to delineate its common border with Lebanon.
  • S/RES/1559 (2 September 2004) urged withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon, disarmament of all militias, and extension of the Lebanese government’s control over all Lebanese territory.

Selected Secretary-General’s Reports

  • S/2009/542 (21 October 2009) was the latest report on resolution 1559.
  • S/2009/330 (29 June 2009) was the latest report on resolution 1701.

Selected Letters

  • S/2009/532 (13 October 2009) was a letter from Israel regarding the 12 October explosions in Tayr Filsi.
  • S/2009/458 (14 September 2009) was a letter from Lebanon regarding Israeli shelling in southern Lebanon.
  • S/2009/454 (11 September 2009) was a letter from Israel regarding the 11 September launch of three rockets from Lebanese territory toward Israel.
  • S/2009/407 (6 August 2009) was a letter from the Secretary-General to the Council on the UNIFIL mandate renewal including the plan for a comprehensive review of UNIFIL and the developments in the investigation of the 14 July Khirbat Silim explosions.
  • S/2009/379 (23 July 2009) was a letter from Lebanon on the 14 July Khirbat Silim explosions.
  • S/2009/287 (2 June 2009) and S/2009/264 (20 May 2009) were letters from Lebanon regarding the arrest of individuals suspected to be part of an Israeli spy network.

Selected Meeting Records

  • S/PV.6201 (14 October 2009) and S/PV.6190 (17 September 2009) were the regular monthly Middle East briefings including developments in Lebanon.
  • S/PV.6183 (27 August 2009) was the meeting record of the Council’s adoption of resolution 1884 which renewed the UNIFIL mandate to 31 August 2010.

Other Relevant Facts

Secretary-General’s Special Coordinator for Lebanon

Michael Williams (UK)

Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559

Terje Roed-Larsen (Norway)

UNIFIL Force Commander

Major-General Claudio Graziano (Italy)

Size and Composition of UNIFIL as of 31 August 2009

  • Authorised: 15,000 troops
  • Current: 12,235 military personnel
  • Troop Contributors: Belgium, Brunei, China, Croatia, Cyprus, El Salvador, France, FYR of Macedonia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand, Norway, Poland (due to withdraw in October 2009), Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, Spain, Tanzania and Turkey

Duration

March 1978 to present; mandate expires 31 August 2010

Cost

1 July 2009 – 30 June 2010: $589.80 million (A/C.5/63/25)

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