The first Italian troops of the strengthened United Nations force for Lebanon are today preparing for their deployment in the south of the country. Some 880 soldiers arrived in Tyre, Naqoura and Beirut over the weekend – their role: to patrol the zone bordered by the Mediterranean to the west, the River Litani to the north and Israel to the south. “The men have been at work for the last two days,” said Lieutenant Alessandro Miglietta. “They’re setting up camp, there’s the equipment to install. We’re ready to get to work.” The arrival of the Italians brings the UNIFIL contingent to around 3,200 – Israel is still occupying an eight kilometre wide zone on the border and has said will it withdraw when the UN forces are at 5,000.
But Germany’s mission to patrol the Lebanese coastline is now in doubt after Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted there would be no deployment without a formal request from Lebanon. “The offer remains but prudence must be the priority,” she said. The planned role of the German patrol was to prevent arms smuggling to Islamic militants.
Meanwhile a further contingent of 180 French soldiers set off from Toulon early this morning on its way to Lebanon. La Foudre has on board more than 100 vehicles – lorries, jeeps and amphibian carriers – as well as ammunition supplies.