1 August 2006
Security Council Extends United Nations Force in Lebanon, Unanimously Adopting Resolution 1697 (2006)
Urges All Concerned Parties to Avoid Action that Might Endanger United Nations Personnel
NEW YORK, 31 July (UN Headquarters) -- Having examined the Secretary-General's report on the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), including its observations that the Force had been impeded from effectively carrying out its activities, as a result of the continuing hostilities along the Blue Line, the Security Council today decided to extend its mandate until 31 August 2006.
The Council, expressing the deepest concern at the escalation of hostilities in Lebanon and Israel since 12 July, urged all concerned parties to avoid any action that might endanger United Nations personnel, and called on them to allow the Force to resupply its positions, conduct search and rescue operations on behalf of its personnel and undertake any other measures that it deemed necessary to ensure the safety of its personnel.
Today's meeting began at 11:30 a.m. and ended at 11:35 a.m.
The full text of resolution 1697 (2006) reads as follows:
"The Security Council,
"Recalling all its previous resolutions on Lebanon, including resolutions 425 (1978) and 426 (1978) of 19 March 1978 and 1655 (2006) of 31 January 2006, as well as the statements of its President on the situation in Lebanon, in particular the statement of 18 June 2000 (S/PRST/2000/21),
"Expressing deepest concern at the escalation of hostilities in Lebanon and Israel since 12 July 2006,
"Taking note of the letter dated 7 July 2006 (S/2006/496) from the Chargé d'affaires a.i. of the Permanent Mission of Lebanon to the United Nations conveying to the Secretary-General the request that the Security Council extend the mandate of UNIFIL for a further period of six months,
"Having examined the Secretary-General's report on UNIFIL of 22 July 2006 (S/2006/560), including its observations that, as a result of the continuing hostilities along the Blue Line, UNIFIL has been impeded to carry out its activities effectively, and noting in this context the Secretary-General's recommendation that the mandate of the Force be extended for a period of one month pending consideration of other options for future arrangements in South Lebanon,
"1. Urges all concerned parties to abide scrupulously by their obligation to respect the safety of UNIFIL and other United Nations personnel, and avoid any course of action which might endanger United Nations personnel, and calls on them to allow the Force to resupply its positions, conduct search and rescue operations on behalf of its personnel and undertake any other measures the Force deems necessary to ensure the safety of its personnel;
"2. Decides to extend the mandate of UNIFIL until 31 August 2006;
"3. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.
The Security Council met this morning to consider the recommendations and observations set out in the Secretary-General's latest report on the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) (document S/2006/560), covering the past six months, in which he notes that situation in the UNIFIL area of operation remained tense and volatile, although it was generally quiet during most of the reporting period. But, the start of the increased hostilities on 12 July had "radically changed the context" in which the mission operates.
In the current environment, circumstances conducive to United Nations peacekeeping do not exist, it notes, adding a situation exists "where the Force is restricted from carrying out even basic activities, such as the ability to resupply its positions and to conduct search and rescue operations on behalf of its personnel".
The report recounts the crisis, which started when, around 9 a.m. local time on 12 July, Hizbollah launched several rockets from Lebanese territory across the withdrawal line (the so-called Blue Line) towards Israel Defense Forces positions near the coast and in the area of the Israeli town of Zarit. In parallel, Hizbollah fighters crossed the Blue Line into Israel and attacked an Israeli patrol. Hizbollah captured two Israeli soldiers, killed three others and wounded two more. The captured soldiers were taken into Lebanon.
Subsequent to the attack on the patrol, a heavy exchange of fire ensued across the Blue Line between Hizbollah and the Israel Defense Forces. While the exchange of fire stretched over the entire length of the Line, it was heaviest in the areas west of Bint Jubayl and in the Shabaa farms area. Hizbollah targeted Israel Defense Forces positions and Israeli towns south of the Blue Line. Israel retaliated by ground, air and sea attacks. In addition to air strikes on Hizbollah positions, the Israel Defense Forces targeted numerous roads and bridges in southern Lebanon, within and outside the UNIFIL area of operations. The report says the Israel Defense Forces has stated that those attacks were to "prevent Hizbollah from transferring the abducted soldiers".
UNIFIL's mandate is due to expire at the end of this month, and on 7 July Lebanon's Government HAD asked that it be extended for a further six months. But, given the worsening situation, Mr. Annan recommends that the Security Council extend it only for one month to give time for all "possible options" for south Lebanon to be worked out.
* *** *