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Mob in southern Lebanon seizes equipment from UN peacekeepers

UNIFIL says convoy able to leave village in Hezbollah stronghold after intervention by Lebanese army, but doesn’t get gear back

UNIFIL peacekeepers patrol near the village of Mais el Jabal, along the southern Lebanese border with Israel, August 26, 2020. (Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP)
Illustrative: UNIFIL peacekeepers patrol near the village of Mais el Jabal, along the southern Lebanese border with Israel, August 26, 2020. (Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP)

BEIRUT — A mob seized equipment from a UNIFIL convoy in south Lebanon after blocking its route, the UN peacekeeping force said Saturday of its latest run-in with the local population.

The incident, which required the intervention of the Lebanese army, took place on Friday as the UNIFIL convoy passed through the village of Kaouthariyet al-Saiyad on the way back to base, according to the statement.

“A large group of civilians… dispossessed the UNIFIL patrol of items and equipment,” the statement said, without specifying what was taken.

The convoy was able to leave the village after the army intervened, “although the equipment was not returned to the peacekeepers,” the statement added.

A UNIFIL patrol drives past a billboard showing the faces of slain Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani and Hezbollah military commander Imad Mughniyeh, in the southern Lebanese village of Adaisseh on the border with Israel, August 26, 2020. (Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP)

The seizure of UNIFIL equipment by civilians is rare, but sporadic incidents take place between the force and members of the local population, who sometimes block patrol routes.

The area is a bastion of the Shiite terror group Hezbollah, which is a heavyweight in Lebanese politics and sworn enemy of neighboring Israel.

Lebanon and Israel are still technically at war, and the United Nations force patrols the border between the two.

Set up in 1978, UNIFIL was beefed up after a month-long devastating war in 2006 between Israel and Hezbollah.

The 10,500-strong force, in coordination with the Lebanese army, is tasked with monitoring a ceasefire and Israeli pullout from a demilitarized zone on the border.

In August, the Security Council extended UNIFIL’s mandate by one year.

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