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20 January 1997
REPORT OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL ON THE UNITED NATIONS
INTERIM FORCE IN LEBANON
(for the period from 21 July 1996 to 17 January 1997)
The present report is submitted in pursuance of Security Council resolution 1068 (1996) of 30 July 1996, 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 1997. It covers developments since the previous report, dated 20 July 1996 (S/1996/575).
Situation in the area of operation
During the past six months, the situation in UNIFIL's area of operation was somewhat calmer than in the previous mandate period. 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. There was a lull in hostilities from the beginning of the mandate period until the end of the Lebanese parliamentary elections in September. This was followed by a gradual increase in armed activity. In recent weeks, the level of hostilities has risen further, especially north of the Litani River. The fighting caused a number of casualties.
UNIFIL observed 92 operations by armed elements against IDF/DFF (5 in the last 11 days of July, 11 in August, 8 in September, 16 in October, 19 in November, 6 in December and 16 in the first half of January 1997). There were also reports of more than 160 clashes between the IDF/DFF and armed elements 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, while one is believed to have been carried out by a Palestinian group. In their attacks against IDF/DFF, armed elements used small arms, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, anti-tank missiles, road-side bombs and rockets. During the period under review, armed elements fired more than 900 mortar rounds, rockets and anti-tank missiles.
IDF/DFF, in response to attacks or in operations they initiated, employed artillery, mortars, tanks, helicopter gunships and fixed-wing aircraft. On numerous occasions, IDF/DFF conducted pre-emptive artillery bombardments, usually to cover troop movements or rotation convoys. UNIFIL recorded more than 9,000 artillery, mortar and tank rounds fired by IDF/DFF within the six-month period, significantly fewer than in previous periods. Air raids by IDF increased markedly in recent weeks, as Israel began using combat aircraft to respond to attacks on its forces. The air raids were carried out north of the Litani River, except one in the Nepalese battalion sector on 5 January 1997.
As before, the Israeli navy patrolled the Lebanese territorial waters in the south. Restrictions it imposed on the local fishermen appeared less severe than in the past.
Firing into populated areas decreased markedly, compared to the past. In UNIFIL's area of operation the main incidents were on 28 August 1996, when two civilians were wounded near an IDF/DFF position at Shihin by a mortar round fired by armed elements, and on 11 October, when IDF fired into the village of Safed al Battikh in the Irish battalion sector, wounding 13 civilians, four of them seriously. Other casualties were reported from north of the Litani, notably on 7 December 1996, when six civilians were injured by Israeli tank fire in Kafer Tibnite. At least two rockets were fired into northern Israel on 13 December 1996 and at least one rocket was fired on 7 January 1997. No casualties were reported and no organization has claimed responsibility for the attacks. The Lebanese authorities arrested two persons suspected of having been involved in the second rocket firing.
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.
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 showed more restraint in this regard. Nevertheless, a total of 78 firings at or close to UNIFIL positions and personnel were recorded (76 by IDF/DFF and two by armed elements). UNIFIL promptly protested all such instances to the authorities concerned. In a potentially very serious incident on 28 August 1996, IDF/DFF fired a mortar round into a position of the Finnish battalion. Fortunately, the round caused only minor injuries to a Finnish soldier.
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. In addition to providing facilities for the meetings, UNIFIL also provided transport and security for investigations in the field.
Within the Israeli-controlled area (ICA), Israel continued to maintain a civil administration and security service. The infrastructure in ICA (road system, electricity, water supply, public buildings) was improved significantly, 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.
IDF/DFF carried out sporadic search operations throughout ICA, especially in the villages of Rshaf, At Tiri, Et Taibe and Deir Siriane, and made several arrests. UNIFIL recorded four cases of the families of defectors from DFF being expelled from ICA and forced to vacate their homes at short notice. Reports of forced recruitment to DFF increased. 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 despite the efforts of UNIFIL to have it lifted (see S/1996/45, para 11).
UNIFIL continued to extend assistance to the civilian population in the form of medical care, 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 3,000 civilian patients per month and a field dental programme treated approximately 100 cases per month. 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, 116 controlled explosions were carried out.
As of January 1997, UNIFIL comprised 4,505 troops, from Estonia (136), Fiji (591), Finland (499), France (247), Ghana (648), Ireland (622), Italy (45), Nepal (598), Norway (484) and Poland (635). From early December 1996, an Estonian company was deployed in the eastern Norwegian battalion sector as an integrated part of that battalion. UNIFIL was assisted in the performance of its tasks by 57 military observers of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization. In addition, UNIFIL employed 443 civilian staff, of whom 121 were recruited internationally and 322 locally. The deployment of UNIFIL is shown on the annexed map. Major-General Stanislaw F. Wozniak continued as Force Commander.
I regret to report that a Polish soldier died of natural causes; a Finnish soldier was slightly wounded as a result of firing. Since the establishment of UNIFIL, 208 members of the Force have died: 76 as a result of firing or bomb explosions, 84 in accidents and 48 from other causes. A total of 325 have been wounded by firing or by mine or bomb explosions.
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 practical and budgetary reasons, only a few of these requests can be met.
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. During the Lebanese parliamentary elections in September 1996, UNIFIL cooperated closely with the Lebanese Army and the Lebanese Internal Security Forces to ensure security in its area of operation.
By its resolution 50/89 B of 7 June 1996, the General Assembly appropriated to the Special Account for UNIFIL an amount of $125,722,800 gross for the maintenance of the Force for the period from 1 July 1996 to 30 June 1997, 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 $10,476,900 gross per month, is subject to the decision of the Security Council to extend the mandate of the Force beyond 31 January 1997.
As of 31 December 1996, unpaid assessed contributions to the Special Account for UNIFIL amounted to $177,164,145. The total unpaid assessed contributions for all peacekeeping operations at that date amounted to $1.6 billion.
While the level of hostilities was somewhat lower than in the past, the situation in southern Lebanon continued to be tense and volatile, as Israel maintained its occupation of parts of the area, while Lebanese groups continued their attacks against the occupying forces. The UNIFIL mandate, defined in Security Council resolution 425 (1978) and reaffirmed in subsequent resolutions, remained thus unfulfilled.
As regards firing into populated areas, the parties exercised a measure of restraint, in accordance with the understanding of 26 April 1996. It is hoped that they will continue to do so. However, this positive development should not obscure the fact that the inherent instability of the situation and the ever-present possibility of renewed deterioration remain a cause for serious concern.
The Permanent Representative of Lebanon to the United Nations described his Government's position on the situation in a letter he addressed to me on 17 January 1997 (S/1997/41). He also informed me of his Governments decision to request the Security Council to extend UNIFILs mandate for a further period of six months.
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 July 1997.
It will be recalled that a 65-year-old Palestinian has been accommodated at UNIFIL headquarters since April 1995, after he was deported by the Israeli authorities and denied entry by the Lebanese authorities. I call upon the parties concerned to find a solution to this humanitarian problem as soon as possible.
I must again draw attention to the serious shortfall in the funding of the Force. At present, unpaid assessments amount to some $177 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.
In conclusion, I wish to pay tribute to Major-General Stanislaw F. Wozniak, the Force Commander, and to all 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.
Map no. 3000 Rev.1
UNIFIL deployment as of January 1997