Question of Palestine home
17 January 2000
REPORT OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL ON THE UNITED NATIONS
INTERIM FORCE IN LEBANON
(for the period from 16 July 1999 to 15 January 2000)
1. The present report is submitted in pursuance of Security Council resolution 1254 (1999) of 30 July 1999, 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 January 2000. It covers developments since the previous report, dated 21 July 1999 (S/1999/807).
II. SITUATION IN THE AREA OF OPERATION
2. During the past six months, hostilities continued at a somewhat reduced level between the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and their 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. Armed elements initiated fewer large-scale operations and, on occasion, refrained from retaliatory measures. The DFF were subjected to tighter control by the IDF, resulting in less firing into populated areas. Civilian casualties decreased; 4 civilians were killed during the reporting period, as compared to 19 in the previous period and 12 in the period from July 1998 to January 1999.
3. A significant political development for the region was the resumption, in December 1999, of negotiations between Israel and the Syrian Arab Republic, under the auspices of the United States of America.
4. UNIFIL recorded 360 operations by armed elements against IDF/DFF (29 in the second half of July, 73 in August, 41 in September, 73 in October, 62 in November, 62 in December and 20 in the first half of January). There were also reports of some 100 operations north of the Litani River. The vast majority of these operations were carried out by the Islamic Resistance, the military wing of the Shiite Muslim Hizballah organization. The Shiite movement AMAL took responsibility for some 65 operations, while the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad, which had not been active in the area for two years, took responsibility for two operations; a few were attributed to other Lebanese groups. The armed elements employed small arms, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, anti-tank missiles, recoilless rifles, rocket, artillery and explosive devices. They fired some 3,200 mortar, artillery, rocket and anti-tank rounds, as compared to about 3,700 rounds in the previous reporting period.
5. IDF/DFF, in response to attacks or in operations they initiated, employed artillery, mortars, tanks, helicopter gun ships, fixed-wing aircraft and explosive devices. UNIFIL recorded over 11,600 artillery, mortar, tank and missile rounds fired by IDF/DFF, as compared to 15,000 in the previous period. While IDF continued its practice of conducting pre-emptive artillery bombardments, it relied more heavily on air raids as a retaliatory measure. There were 88 air raids both inside and outside the area of operation. As before, the Israeli navy patrolled Lebanese territorial waters in the south and continued to impose restrictions on local fishermen.
6. In the area where it is deployed, UNIFIL continued its efforts to limit the conflict and to protect the inhabitants from the fighting through its network of checkpoints and observation posts, an active programme of patrolling, and continuous contacts with the parties. The Force was also deployed, as necessary, to provide a measure of protection to villages and to farmers working in the fields: altogether 113 harvest patrol and escorts were provided. Nevertheless, in the UNIFIL area of operation, there were several incidents in which civilians were killed or injured. On 3 August, a woman was wounded in the village of Al Mansuri (located on the coast near Al Bayyadah) by a mortar round fired by IDF/DFF. The next day, armed elements detonated a road-side bomb near Al Bayyadah, killing the civilian driver of a truck, who was employed by IDF/DFF. On 29 August, four civilians were injured at Al-Mansuri by IDF/DFF shelling. On 14 October, a young girl was injured by a rocket fired from an Israeli aircraft. On 29 October, three civilians were injured near Al Bayyadah by rockets fired by armed elements. On 12 November and 15 December, one civilian was wounded near Hula and one near Bayt Yahun by armed element fire. On 6 December, a civilian was killed and two others were injured near Al Mansuri by IDF tank fire. There were two mine incidents, in which one civilian was injured near Bayt Lif (25 October) and one near Qabrikha (20 December) by an anti-personnel mine, resulting in the loss of a limb.
7. There were other reports of serious incidents from outside the area of operation. On 1 September, two civilians were killed in Libbaya by IDF/DFF shelling. On 16 December, 15 school children were injured, some of them seriously, in Arab Salim, when two mortar rounds fired by IDF/DFF impacted on the schoolyard. IDF issued a public apology for this shelling; armed elements did not retaliate.
8. Within the Israeli-controlled area, Israel continued to maintain a civil administration and security service. The infrastructure in the area (road system, electricity, water supply, and public buildings) continued to be improved with funds provided by the Government of Lebanon. However, the area remained economically dependent on Israel, where more than 2,500 of the inhabitants go to work every day.
9. IDF/DFF conducted search operations for arms in several villages in the Israeli-controlled area and, from time to time, restricted the movement of the inhabitants. A number of persons were arrested and imprisoned in Khiam, while others were expelled from their villages and ordered to leave the area.
10. In performing its tasks, the Force at times encountered hostile reactions. There were two incidents in which United Nations personnel were threatened and harassed by armed elements. Strong protests were made about these incidents through the Lebanese Army.
11. UNIFIL itself was targeted on several occasions. For example, on 23 September, a United Nations armoured personnel carrier went over an explosive device planted by armed elements near Buyut as Sayyid. Three Fijian soldiers sustained injuries. On 6 October, IDF/DFF fired a mortar round at a United Nations position near Frun, fortunately causing only minor damage.
12. In July 1996, UNIFIL obtained a commitment from IDF to respect a safety zone around UNIFIL positions and received assurances from the Islamic Resistance that they would not operate in the vicinity of UNIFIL positions. Regrettably, these commitments were frequently broken by the personnel of both sides. In particular, incidents of armed elements operating from close to United Nations positions increased, reaching a high of 21 in December. Roughly half of these incidents are attributable to the Islamic Resistance and the other half to AMAL. The number of firings at or close to United Nations positions and personnel totalled 164 (116 by IDF/DFF, 37 by armed elements and 11 that could not be attributed), which was almost the same level as in the last reporting period. The United Nations strongly protested about these incidents to the authorities concerned.
13. UNIFIL continued to assist the civilian population in the form of medical care, harvest patrols, water projects, equipment or services for schools and orphanages, and supplies to social services and needy people. Such assistance was provided from resources made available by troop-contributing countries. UNIFIL medical centres and mobile teams provided care to an average of 5,000 civilian patients per month and a field dental programme treated approximately 200 cases per month. UNIFIL also assisted the Government of Lebanon in transporting and distributing supplies to villages in the Israeli-controlled area when they faced shortages owing to restrictions imposed by IDF/DFF. UNIFIL cooperated closely on humanitarian matters with the Lebanese authorities, United Nations agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other organizations and agencies operating in Lebanon. On 21 December, UNIFIL facilitated and provided logistic support for an ICRC operation to retrieve the bodies of the Islamic Resistance members killed in the past fighting.
14. As in the past, UNIFIL continued the disposal of unexploded ordnance in its area of operation. In all, 60 controlled explosions were carried out.
15. The monitoring group set up in accordance with the understanding of 26 April 1996 held 12 meetings at UNIFIL headquarters to consider complaints by Israel and Lebanon. UNIFIL provided facilities for the meetings as well as transport and other logistic support for the members of the group.
III. ORGANIZATIONAL MATTERS
16. As of January 2000, UNIFIL comprised 4,504 troops from Fiji (600), Finland (494), France (245), Ghana (653), India (619), Ireland (612), Italy (46), Nepal (604) and Poland (631). UNIFIL was assisted in its tasks by 51 military observers of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO). In addition, UNIFIL employed 460 civilian staff, of whom 116 were recruited internationally and 344 locally. Major General Jioji Konousi Konrote returned to his national service on 30 September 1999, handing over to his deputy, Brigadier General James Sreenan, as Acting Force Commander. Major General Seth Kofi Obeng assumed command on 1 December. The deployment of UNIFIL is shown on the attached map.
17. I regret to report the death of two members of the Force. An Irish soldier was killed in a traffic accident. A Fijian soldier died of natural causes. Since the establishment of UNIFIL, 229 members of the Force have lost their lives: 77 as a result of firings or bomb explosions, 94 in accidents and 58 from other causes. A total of 341 were wounded by firing, or by mine or bomb explosions.
18. UNIFIL maintained close contact 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. At times, the Lebanese army was helpful in defusing confrontations with armed elements. It also provided accommodation for some UNIFIL contingents 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.
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.
IV. FINANCIAL MATTERS
20. The General Assembly, by its resolution 53/227 of 8 June 1999, appropriated to the Special Account for UNIFIL an amount of $148.9 million gross, equivalent to a monthly rate of $12.4 million gross, for the maintenance of the Force for the period from 1 July 1999 to 30 June 2000. Therefore, should the Security Council decide to extend the mandate of UNIFIL, the cost of maintaining the Force would be limited to the monthly rate approved by the General Assembly.
21. As at 31 December 1999, unpaid assessments to the Special Account for UNIFIL for the period since its inception to 31 January 2000 amounted to $108.7 million. The total outstanding assessed contributions for all peacekeeping operations at that date amounted to $1,482.1 million.
22. During the past six months, fighting continued in south Lebanon and the situation in the area remained volatile, although the level of hostility was somewhat reduced and civilian casualties decreased. I urge the parties to continue to exercise restraint and respect the non-combatant status of civilians.
23. A significant political development in the region was the resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Syrian Arab Republic as brokered by the United States of America. I shall continue to follow this matter closely and revert to the Council should there be any change in the situation relevant to the implementation of resolution 425 (1978).
24. The Permanent Representative of Lebanon to the United Nations, in a letter addressed to me on 28 December 1999 (S/1999/1284), conveyed his Government's request that the Security Council extend the mandate of UNIFIL for a further period of six months. While UNIFIL continues to be prevented from implementing the mandate contained in Security Council resolution 425 (1978), 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 respond positively to the request of the Government of Lebanon and extend the mandate of UNIFIL for another period of six months, until 31 July 2000.
25. I must again draw attention to the serious shortfall in the funding of the Force. At present, unpaid assessments amount to $108.7 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 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.
26. In conclusion, I wish to pay tribute to Major General Jioji Konousi Konrote, Brigadier General James Sreenan and Major General Seth Kofi Obeng, and to the men and women serving with UNIFIL 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 and on their countries as well as on the United Nations.