UNIFIL urges ‘maximum restraint’ along Lebanon-Israel border

AP , Saturday 10 Jun 2023

UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon called for calm on Friday after Lebanese and Israeli troops came close to direct confrontation in the flashpoint “Blue Line” border area.

UNIFIl forces
UNIFIL forces are on standby on the Lebanese side of the border with Israel , June 9, 2023. AFP


The tension on the edge of the Lebanese border village of Kfar Chouba began earlier this week over the Israeli military digging in Lebanese area.

On Friday, Israeli soldiers fired tear gas to disperse scores of protesters who pelted the troops with stones along the border with Lebanon, leaving some Lebanese demonstrators and troops suffering breathing problems.

"UNIFIL peacekeepers are on the ground. They have been on the ground since the beginning to maintain the status quo of the cessation of hostilities, to establish calm, and to help ease tensions," said Tenenti. 

He added that, "UNIFIL is in contact with the parties, and is striving to find solutions," calling on both sides to "exercise restraint and avoid actions that might lead to an escalation of tension along the Blue Line."

On Wednesday, a Lebanese villager tried to stop an Israeli bulldozer from digging a trench along the border. Once the villager's legs were covered with sand as the bulldozer moved ahead, UN peacekeepers jumped in and convinced the driver to move back.

Videos of the elderly man with his legs stuck in the sand dune went viral on social media.

Friday’s protest took place on the edge of Kfar Chouba hills, which Beirut says is Lebanese land occupied by Israel. Kfar Chouba hills and the nearby Chebaa Farms, are areas occupied by Israel during the 1967 War and claimed by Lebanon.

Some of the protesters tried to break through a fence in the rugged area overlooked by an Israeli military post. Israeli forces fired tear gas to disperse them while Lebanese troops and UN peacekeepers later moved in and pushed the protesters back.

“DO NOT CROSS THE BLUE LINE,” read a banner carried by a U.N. peacekeeper in Arabic, English and French, referring to the border drawn after Israel’s withdrawal in 2000. 

Israeli troops and several vehicles, including a heavily armored Merkava tank, were seen in the area.

Lebanese troops were on alert in the area and reinforcements were brought in.

The protesters later held Friday prayers in the area and then tried to sneak in again, leading to more tear gas fire.

Friday’s tension came a day after the head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Lebanon, Maj. Gen. Aroldo Lazaro, chaired a meeting with senior Lebanese and Israeli officers at the U.N. headquarters along the border. The general appealed for restraint along the border and work on reducing tensions.

The Lebanon-Israel border has been relatively calm since Israel and Hezbollah fought a 34-day war in 2006. Despite that, there have been tensions. 

In April, Israel launched rare airstrikes on southern Lebanon wounding two people and causing some property damage.

Israel ended an 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon when its troops withdrew from the area in May 2000.

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