July 2024 Monthly Forecast



Expected Council Action

In July, Council members expect to receive a briefing in consultations on the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of resolution 1701. Adopted in 2006, resolution 1701 called for a cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah. The Secretary-General’s report, which is due on 10 July, will cover the period from 21 February to 20 June. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert—whose appointment was announced on 20 May and who succeeds Joanna Wronecka—and Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix are the expected briefers.

Key Recent Developments

Near-daily exchanges of fire across the Blue Line between Israel and Hezbollah and other armed groups in Lebanon have continued since the outbreak of the war between Israel and Hamas on 7 October 2023. (Established by the UN in 2000 to confirm Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon, the Blue Line does not represent an international border but acts in practice as a boundary between Lebanon and Israel in the absence of an agreed border between the two states. For background on the war in Gaza, see the brief “The Middle East, including the Palestinian Question” in our July Monthly Forecast.)

The exchanges of fire have resulted in casualties among combatants and civilians on both sides of the Blue Line. According to figures cited on 18 June by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk, the hostilities have resulted in 25 Israeli fatalities and the reported killing in Lebanon of 401 people, including paramedics and journalists. The exchanges of fire have displaced over 90,000 people in Lebanon and over 60,000 in Israel. The violence has also caused destruction of property and fires on both sides of the Blue Line, with a 5 June Human Rights Watch report warning that “Israel’s widespread use of white phosphorus in south Lebanon is putting civilians at grave risk and contributing to civilian displacement”.

The intensification of strikes and bellicose rhetoric by Israeli and Hezbollah officials in June have raised serious concerns about the possibility of an all-out war. On 11 June, Taleb Abdallah, a senior Hezbollah commander, was killed together with three other Hezbollah members in an Israeli strike in southern Lebanon. Hezbollah retaliated on 12 and 13 June, launching a large number of rockets and weaponised drones across the border, with Hezbollah official Hashem Safieddine reportedly saying at Abdallah’s funeral on 12 June that Hezbollah would “increase the intensity, strength, quantity and quality” of its attacks. Abdallah has been identified in media reports as Hezbollah’s most senior member to have been killed since the current round of hostilities began in October 2023, and Hezbollah’s 12 June attack was reportedly one of the heaviest during the war.

On 18 June, Hezbollah released a drone video showing military and civilian locations in and around the Israeli city of Haifa. Responding to the video, Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Israel Katz said on X, formerly Twitter, that “[i]n an all-out war, Hezbollah will be destroyed and Lebanon will be severely hit”. On the same day, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced that “operational plans for an offensive in Lebanon” had been “approved and validated”. In a 19 June speech, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah reportedly said that, in the event of a broader war, “there will be no place safe from our missiles and our drones” in Israel, and claimed to be in possession of “a bank of targets” in the country. In an unusual development, Nasrallah also addressed Cyprus, saying that “opening Cypriot airports and bases” to Israel to attack Lebanon will result in Cyprus becoming “part of the war”. (Located about 200 kilometers from Lebanon, Cyprus has held joint military exercises with Israel since 2014, according to media reports). In a 28 June post on X, formerly Twitter, the Permanent Mission of Iran to the UN in New York said that should Israel attack Lebanon with a “full scale military aggression, an obliterating war will ensue”.

On 15 June, Hennis-Plasschaert and UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Head of Mission and Force Commander Lieutenant General Aroldo Lázaro issued a joint statement warning about the risk of “miscalculation leading to a sudden and wider conflict” and urging all actors along the Blue Line to lay down their weapons and commit to peace. Similarly, on 21 June, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that miscalculation “could trigger a catastrophe that goes far beyond the border”, adding that “the people of the region and the people of the world cannot afford Lebanon to become another Gaza”.

Against this backdrop, UNIFIL has continued to implement its mandate, including through armed vehicle patrols along the Blue Line and counter-rocket-launching patrols, and working to de-escalate tensions, prevent miscalculation and support communities in southern Lebanon.

Diplomatic initiatives by France and the US focusing on de-escalation and on bringing the parties to a negotiation process have continued. Proposals have reportedly revolved around re-establishing a cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah, having Hezbollah and other armed groups withdraw several kilometres north of the Blue Line with a simultaneous scaled-up presence in the border area of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), and launching a negotiation process over disputed areas along the Blue Line.

On 13 June, French President Emmanuel Macron announced a trilateral contact group composed of the US, France, and Israel to advance a French proposal for de-escalation, adding that there would be a similar engagement with the Lebanese authorities. The following day, however, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant rejected the French proposal, stating that Israel would not participate in the “trilateral framework”.

Hezbollah has said on several occasions that until the war in Gaza ends, it will not take part in any negotiations, and the Lebanese front “will remain active”. But in a 24 June interview discussing a recent visit to Israel and Lebanon by Deputy Assistant to the US President Amos Hochstein, Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who is also the President of the Amal Movement, an ally of Hezbollah, said that, in the context of a US proposal that Hezbollah withdraws 8 kilometres north of the Blue Line, the IDF should withdraw by the same distance. He added that he had not received a response to his proposal during Hochstein’s visit, however.

Lebanon has been without a president for almost two years since Michel Aoun’s term ended on 31 October 2022, with opposing politico-sectarian blocks unable to agree on a candidate. National and international initiatives to overcome the impasse on the election of the next Lebanese President have yet to generate any tangible result. The presidential vacuum is compounded by the fact that, over two years since the 15 May 2022 legislative elections, Lebanon’s government remains in caretaker status.

Anti-refugee sentiment, measures, and incidents continue to be a source of concern in Lebanon, which hosts the largest number of refugees per capita in the world. In a 16 May letter, seven non-governmental organisations, including Amnesty International, urged Lebanon to “immediately halt forced deportations of Syrian refugees and reverse a set of unprecedented and draconian measures” recently adopted. The letter notes that about a fifth of the one billion Euro financial assistance package to Lebanon announced on 2 May by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, “is designated to support the Lebanese army and security services’ border management and migration control” and that, since the announcement, Lebanese authorities have adopted new policies that would “push even more refugees to flee the country”.

Key issues and options

The escalating exchanges of fire across the Blue Line in clear violation of resolution 1701, the risk of a full-scale war in Lebanon, and a possible connected regional conflagration are key issues for the Security Council.

An option for Council members is to issue a presidential statement calling on all relevant parties immediately to cease fire and recommit to, and implement, Security Council resolution 1701. The presidential statement could also demand that the parties respect international law and stress that civilians and civilian objects must never be targeted.

A ceasefire in Gaza—however remote the possibility currently appears—might contribute to quietening the situation along the Blue Line, possibly opening a space for progress in the indirect talks between Lebanon and Israel. The presidential statement could urge all relevant actors to engage constructively and with flexibility with the diplomatic efforts underway.

UNIFIL’s mandate expires on 31 August. Speaking at a 30 May press briefing, Lacroix said that “should there be a cessation of hostilities and the implementation of some of the proposals that are put forward by some of our member states to both Israel and Lebanon, should there be progress towards the implementation of resolution 1701, then UNIFIL is expected to play a role by both sides, [and] we would certainly need to adapt to these new circumstances”.

In July, Council members may begin to direct their attention to UNIFIL’s upcoming mandate renewal negotiations and consider whether the current situation requires any adjustment to the mandate. In this context, Council members are likely to follow closely any development across the Blue Line, including on the French and US initiatives for de-escalation.

Council Dynamics

There continues to be broad consensus among Council members in support of Lebanon’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and security. Council members also agree that a full-scale conflict between Israel and Hezbollah must be avoided, with several members—including China, France, Japan, and Slovenia–expressing concern about the risk of escalation at the 25 June Council meeting on “The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question”.

Sharp differences among Council members persist over Hezbollah. Some members distinguish between Hezbollah’s political and military wings and have designated only its military wing as a terrorist organisation. Other members, including the UK and the US, have listed Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organisation. In contrast, Russia sees Hezbollah as a legitimate sociopolitical force.

France is the penholder on Lebanon.

Sign up for SCR emails

Security Council Resolutions
31 August 2023S/RES/2695 This resolution extended the mandate of UNIFIL until 31 August 2024. Thirteen members voted in favour of the resolution, Russia and China abstained.
11 August 2006S/RES/1701 This resolution called for a cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah. It also expanded UNIFIL’s mandate.
2 September 2004S/RES/1559 This resolution urged withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon, disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias, extension of the Lebanese government’s control over all Lebanese territory and free and fair presidential elections.

Subscribe to receive SCR publications