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16 July 1997
REPORT OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL ON THE UNITED NATIONS
INTERIM FORCE IN LEBANON
(for the period from 18 January to 16 July 1997)
1. The present report is submitted in pursuance of Security Council resolution 1095 (1997) of 28 January 1997, by which the Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) for a further period of six months, until 31 July 1997. It covers developments since the previous report, dated 20 January 1997 (S/1997/42).
II. SITUATION IN THE AREA OF OPERATION
2. During the past six months, hostilities continued between the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and its local Lebanese auxiliary, the de facto forces (DFF), on the one hand, and armed elements who have proclaimed their resistance against the Israeli occupation on the other. The level of hostilities was higher than in the previous period.
3. UNIFIL recorded 154 operations by armed elements against IDF/DFF (6 in the second half of January, 35 in February, 9 in March, 18 in April, 31 in May, 36 in June and 19 in the first half of July). There were also reports of more than 210 operations north of the Litani River. The vast majority of the attacks were carried out by the Islamic Resistance, the military wing of the Shiite Muslim Hizbullah organization. A few of them were carried out by the Shiite movement Amal. Three attacks were attributed to Palestinian groups, although UNIFIL could not confirm this. In their attacks against IDF/DFF, armed elements used small arms, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, anti-tank missiles, road-side bombs and rockets. Armed elements more frequently employed long-range mortar fire in their attacks against IDF/DFF. During the period under review, armed elements fired more than 1,400 mortar rounds, rockets and anti-tank missiles.
4. IDF/DFF, in response to attacks or in operations they initiated, employed artillery, mortars, tanks, helicopter gunships and fixed-wing aircraft. On more occasions than in previous periods, IDF/DFF conducted pre-emptive artillery bombardments, usually to cover troop movements and patrols. IDF increased long-range patrols beyond its forward positions. In a new development, IDF/DFF also used road-side bombs outside the Israeli-controlled area (ICA). UNIFIL recorded more than 12,000 artillery, mortar and tank rounds fired by IDF/DFF during the reporting period, an increase from the previous period's count. Air raids by IDF continued at a high level throughout the period. Except for an attack in the Nepalese battalion sector on 9 February and one in the Ghanaian battalion sector on 1 June, all air raids were carried out north of the Litani River.
5. As before, the Israeli navy patrolled the Lebanese territorial waters in the south and continued to impose restrictions on the local fishermen.
6. Firing into populated areas was maintained at a relatively low level, although there were a number of serious incidents. In the Force's area of operation, the most serious incident occurred on 12 July, when a civilian at Adshit Al Qusayr was killed by an anti-personnel flechette tank round fired by IDF/DFF. Other serious incidents were reported from north of the Litani River. On 18 February, a civilian was killed and two others injured by IDF/DFF shelling in Habbush and another village nearby. On 6 July, three civilians in villages in the Iqlim al-Touffah region were injured by artillery rounds fired by IDF/DFF. On 14 July, two civilians were killed and another wounded by IDF/DFF shelling near Saida. On 15 July, two civilians at Demichkiye were injured by shrapnel from rockets fired by armed elements. On 25 April and 3, 6 and 15 July, mortar rounds and rockets fired by armed elements at IDF/DFF positions along Lebanon's border with Israel landed inside Israeli territory.
7. Civilian casualties from road-side bombs increased. In the UNIFIL area of operation, a civilian was killed by a road-side bomb with Hebrew markings near Frun on 20 February. On 5 May, four civilians were injured by a road-side bomb detonated by armed elements near El Qlaiaa. Other casualties were reported from north of the Litani, notably on 6 May, when two civilians were killed and two others were wounded by road-side bombs planted by IDF/DFF near Nabatiyeh. There were also reports that one civilian each was killed by the explosion of road-side bombs on 4 June in the southernmost part of the Bekaa Valley and on 18 June near Jezzine.
8. UNIFIL continued its efforts to limit the conflict and to protect the inhabitants from the fighting. Through its network of checkpoints and observation posts and an active programme of patrolling as well as continuous contacts with the parties, the Force did its best to prevent its area of deployment from being used for hostile activities and to defuse situations that could lead to escalation. It also deployed, as necessary, to provide a measure of protection to the villages and to farmers working in the fields.
9. As reported in July 1996 (S/1996/575, para. 23), UNIFIL had obtained a commitment from IDF that it would respect a safety zone around UNIFIL positions and received assurances from the Islamic Resistance that they would not conduct operations in the vicinity of UNIFIL positions. During the reporting period, both sides continued to show restraint in this regard. Nevertheless, a total of 68 firings at or close to UNIFIL positions and personnel were recorded (40 by IDF/DFF, 15 by armed elements and 13 by unidentified elements). UNIFIL promptly protested all such instances to the authorities concerned.
10. In accordance with an understanding reached several years ago, IDF observed certain limitations on its activities in the Norwegian battalion sector. During the period, there was some friction between IDF and UNIFIL over IDF's access to that sector. On 27 April, IDF placed restrictions on United Nations traffic entering the Norwegian battalion sector, following the battalion's prevention of IDF conducting meetings with local villagers in the sector. UNIFIL protested the incident. On 24 and 25 May, IDF, again reacting to the battalion's denial of IDF's request for meetings owing to inadequate notice time, closed the border crossings in Metullah and Rosh Haniqra, as well as an IDF/DFF checkpoint on the coastal road near Naqoura. UNIFIL strongly protested the restriction of its freedom of movement. The matter was resolved after negotiations.
11. On 28 and 29 May, elements of the Islamic Resistance, on three occasions, stopped UNIFIL traffic, harassing the personnel involved. They were reacting to reports that IDF had acquired United Nations vehicles. UNIFIL vigorously protested the harassment and obtained the assurance that it would end. On investigation, it was found that a number of old vehicles, which were in a state of complete disrepair, had been sold to an Israeli buyer by the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force. These vehicles had been transported to ICA with their United Nations markings still intact. They have since been painted over and the procedures for the disposal of old vehicles have been tightened. It is worth mentioning in this connection that UNIFIL has repeatedly expressed its concern to IDF over the latter's use of white four-wheel-drive vehicles similar to UNIFIL's, although without United Nations markings.
12. The monitoring group set up under the understanding of 26 April 1996 held 11 meetings at UNIFIL headquarters to consider complaints by Israel and Lebanon. UNIFIL provided facilities for the meetings as well as transport to the members of the group.
13. Within ICA, Israel continued to maintain a civil administration and security service. The infrastructure in ICA (road system, electricity, water supply, public buildings) continued to be improved, primarily owing to aid provided by the Government of Lebanon. However, ICA remained economically dependent on Israel, where more than 2,000 of the inhabitants go to work every day.
14. IDF/DFF carried out sporadic search operations throughout ICA and made several arrests. Reports of forced recruitment to DFF decreased. All movement between ICA and other parts of Lebanon remained under the control of IDF/DFF and its security apparatus. A night curfew is still being imposed on the village of Rshaf.
15. UNIFIL continued to extend assistance to the civilian population in the form of medical care, casualty evacuation, harvest patrols, clothes, blankets, food, engineering works and the distribution of educational material and equipment to poorer schools. In addition, water projects, equipment or services for schools and orphanages, and supplies to social services and needy people were provided from resources made available by troop-contributing countries. UNIFIL medical centres and mobile teams provided care to an average of 4,300 civilian patients per month and a field dental programme treated approximately 150 cases per month. UNIFIL also assisted the Government of Lebanon in transporting and distributing supplies to villages in ICA, when these villages faced economic difficulties owing to restrictions imposed by IDF/DFF. Throughout the period, UNIFIL cooperated closely on humanitarian matters with the Lebanese authorities, United Nations agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other organizations and agencies operating in Lebanon. As in the past, UNIFIL continued the disposal of unexploded ordnance in its area of operation. In all, 147 controlled explosions were carried out.
16. On 6 March, a Palestinian who had been accommodated at UNIFIL headquarters since 18 April 1995, after being deported to Lebanon by the Israeli authorities, was allowed to leave for Jordan via Israel, as a result of continuous contacts between UNIFIL and IDF.
III. ORGANIZATIONAL MATTERS
17. As of July 1997, UNIFIL comprised 4,488 troops, from Fiji (596), Finland (490), France (247), Ghana (651), Ireland (613), Italy (46), Nepal (597), Norway (616) and Poland (632). The Estonian company deployed for a six-month period as an integral part of the Norwegian battalion completed its tour of duty and left in May 1997. UNIFIL was assisted in the performance of its tasks by 52 military observers of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization. In addition, UNIFIL employed 445 civilian staff, of whom 125 were recruited internationally and 320 locally. The deployment of UNIFIL is shown on the annexed map. Major-General Stanislaw F. Wozniak continued as Force Commander.
18. I regret to report the death of a French soldier and two Polish soldiers. On 21 June, six soldiers of the Irish battalion were wounded, one of them badly, by a mine explosion during clearing mines near Bayt Yahun. Since the establishment of UNIFIL, 211 members of the Force have died: 76 as a result of firing or bomb explosions, 84 in accidents and 51 from other causes. A total of 331 have been wounded by firing or by mine or bomb explosions.
19. The problem of the rents owed by the Government of Lebanon to the owners of the land and premises used by UNIFIL has still not been resolved. Not all owners have received payment and there is continuing controversy over the lists of owners prepared by the Lebanese authorities. Some owners have requested that their properties be vacated. For operational, practical and budgetary reasons, only a few of these requests can be met.
20. UNIFIL maintained close contacts with the Lebanese authorities on matters of mutual concern. Those authorities provided valuable assistance in connection with the rotation of troops and logistic activities in Beirut. The Lebanese army was helpful in defusing confrontations with armed elements. It also provided accommodation for some UNIFIL contingents while on leave in Lebanon. The Force continued to cooperate with the Lebanese Internal Security Forces on matters pertaining to the maintenance of law and order.
IV. FINANCIAL ASPECTS
21. By its resolution 51/233 of 13 June 1997, the General Assembly appropriated to the Special Account for UNIFIL an amount of $124,969,700 gross for the maintenance of the Force for the period from 1 July 1997 to 30 June 1998, based on an average strength of 4,513 troops and a continuation of its existing responsibilities. The assessment of the appropriation, which is equivalent to $10,414,142 gross per month, is subject to the decision of the Security Council to extend the mandate of the Force beyond 31 July 1997.
22. As of 30 June 1997, unpaid assessed contributions to the Special Account for UNIFIL amounted to $175,918,593. The total unpaid assessed contributions for all peacekeeping operations at that date amounted to $2.5 billion.
23. The level of hostilities in southern Lebanon rose somewhat during the past six months and civilians were again targeted or put at risk. The situation remained volatile and continues to give cause for serious concern.
24. The Deputy Permanent Representative of Lebanon to the United Nations described his Government's position on the situation in a letter he addressed to me on 10 July 1997 (S/1997/534). By the same letter, he conveyed his Government's request that the Security Council extend the mandate of UNIFIL for a further period of six months.
25. Although UNIFIL continued to be prevented from implementing its mandate, its contribution to stability and the protection it is able to afford the population of the area remain important. I therefore recommend that the Security Council accede to the request of the Government of Lebanon and extend the mandate of UNIFIL for another period of six months, until 31 January 1998.
26. I must again draw attention to the serious shortfall in the funding of the Force. At present, unpaid assessments amount to some $176 million. This represents money owed to the Member States contributing the troops that make up the Force. I appeal to all Member States to pay their assessments promptly and in full and to clear all remaining arrears. I should also like to express my gratitude to the Governments contributing troops to the Force, in particular those of developing countries, for their understanding and patience in these difficult circumstances.
27. In conclusion, I wish to pay tribute to Major-General Stanislaw F. Wozniak, the Force Commander, and to the men and women under his command for the manner in which they have carried out their difficult and often dangerous task. Their discipline and bearing have been of a high order, reflecting credit on themselves, on their countries and on the United Nations.