Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today said peacekeeping is always dangerous but it is especially deadly in Lebanon.
On his visit to the headquarters in Naqoura of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), Mr. Ban paid tribute to the men and women helping to bring peace to southern Lebanon. He also stressed the importance of the safety of United Nations personnel serving in one of the most dangerous missions in the world.
UNIFIL peacekeepers continued to provide humanitarian assistance to the local population, including medical, dental and veterinarian aid. UNIFIL has lost 293 personnel since the mission began in 1978.
Originally created by the Security Council in March 1978 to confirm Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, UNIFIL was reinforced after the July-August 2006 fighting, with the added mandate to monitor the cessation of hostilities; accompany and support the Lebanese armed forces as they deploy throughout the south of Lebanon; and extend its assistance to help ensure humanitarian access to civilian populations and the voluntary and safe return of displaced persons.
“More personnel have lost their lives serving in UNIFIL than in any other United Nations peacekeeping operation. This weighs heavily on my heart.” -Mr. Ban
On December 2010, five French peacekeepers were wounded in a roadside bomb near the port city of Tyre. Most of the injuries were light but medical sources said one of the UNIFIL soldiers was badly wounded.
There have been several attacks against UN peacekeepers in Lebanon in the past.
The deadliest assault was in June 2007, when a bomb hit an armored personnel carrier near the Israeli border and killed six Spanish peacekeepers.
In his address, Mr. Ban stressed that the safety of UNIFIL personnel was “critically important.” Mr. Ban called on Lebanese Government officials during his meetings to strengthen protection for the mission.
He noted the strong partnership with the Lebanese Armed Forces is vital to maintain peace and stability in the region.
The mission, which has been operating since 1978, currently has just over 12,000 peacekeepers from 35 countries deployed in Lebanon.