UNIFIL base overrun, 3 soldiers briefly kidnapped

Ammunition and equipment stolen from Lebanese facility; international peacekeeping troops released later in the day

A UNIFIL patrol near the Israeli-Lebanese border. (Hamad Almakt/Flash90)
A UNIFIL patrol near the Israeli-Lebanese border. (Hamad Almakt/Flash90)

A UNIFIL base in Lebanon was overrun and three UNIFIL troops were briefly kidnapped on Wednesday amid growing unrest on the borders between Israel, Lebanon, and Syria.

Ammunition and equipment were taken from the base, Israel’s Channel 2 reported. Later in the day, the kidnapped troops were released. It was not immediately clear who was behind the raid.

On Tuesday, UN General for Peacekeeping Operation Herve Ladsous met with Lebanese President Michel Sleiman and said the UN would continue to work with the Lebanese government to keep the country safe, even as tensions in the Middle East rise.

“The United Nations places the utmost importance on security and stability in Lebanon, particularly during these extremely turbulent times,” UN spokesman Martin Nesirky quoted Ladsous as saying after the meeting.

On Sunday, the European Union threatened to remove its troops from UNIFIL, the UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, unless the Lebanese government improves the security situation in the area.

However, in his statement, Ladsous stressed that UNIFIL’s mission would not be compromised and that the peacekeeping force would continue to receive international support.

The UNIFIL force was established in the late 1970s and most recently given a renewed mandate by UN Resolution 1701 in 2006, in the wake of Israel’s extensive strike against Hezbollah targets known as the Second Lebanon War. The international peacekeeping force, made up of troops mainly from European countries, has occasionally encountered difficulties or hostilities from villagers or Hezbollah operatives.

UN resolution 1701 determined that UNIFIL act as a supplementary force to the Lebanese military south of the Litani River, but Hezbollah has been the de facto military power in southern Lebanon ever since Israel dismantled its southern Lebanon defense zone in 2000, after 18 years of IDF presence there.

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