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UN ceasefire in Lebanon on knife-edge

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UN ceasefire in Lebanon on knife-edge


The record of the UN’s 60 year existence and close involvement in Middle East conflicts suggests that the southern Lebanon ceasefire resolution 1701 risks never making it off paper, say diplomats and military analysts. Although approved by the Security Council last Friday and by the Israeli and Lebanese governments, the text imposes a ceasefire on Hizbollah and Israel without ensuring conditions for immediate peace.

Under the agreement, while retaining the right to defensive action for at least two weeks, 30,000 Israeli soldiers would withdraw from between the Litani River and the Blue Line, once UN reinforcements arrive to bring their number there to 15,000. They are supposed to help the Lebanese army take control. At the same time, Hizbollah combattants in the territory claim the right to fight against occupation of southern Lebanon.

The UN force, of seven participating nationalities assigned to patrol a ceasefire, could be caught in the crossfire if the fighting erupted again. This would raise public opinion pressures at home.

“We will defend our land, our homes and ourselves,” proclaimed Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah at the weekend.

Lebanon’s Social Affairs Minister Nalya Moawad shared her fears about disarmament.

“If Hizbollah continues not to be wanting to give back their armaments to the Lebanese army, if Hizbollah does not want the Lebanese army to deploy little by little in the demilitarised area, the ceasefire will not last,” she said.

Diplomacy allows humanitarian aid to be funnelled in, accompanying hopes of rekindling local confidence in the international community. Hizbollah stands to make gains helping there, too. But, given the tensions, for inhabitants and aid personnel alike, it is like walking on eggs.

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