The crunch of snow under foot is a distinct sound. The team of UNIFIL Indian peacekeepers hike their way through the rugged terrain on a patrol near Shab’a. The recent cold snap has left blankets of deep snow, so the patrol had to park their vehicles at a lower position and proceed to the UN position on foot. The hike up the mountain is difficult but the peacekeepers proceed without complaint.
Looking around at the white Lebanese countryside, Major Varun Khajuria, from UNIFIL’s Indian contingent observes, “As you can see around there's lots of heavy snow, but there has been no curtailment in the vehicle as well as the foot-based patrols of UNIFIL by the Indian battalion and all other contingents deployed here.”
UNIFIL patrols, conducted by UNIFIL’s military personnel, are the most visible component of UNIFIL’s work in south Lebanon. The peacekeeping mission carries out some 430 activities, mostly patrols like this one, every single day, holidays included.
When asked about taking a break in duty because of the snow the Major smiles, “As a peacekeeper there is no holiday. We have to do it 24/7, we are ready for this job 24/7."
According to UN Security Council Resolution 1701 (2006), which forms the core of UNIFIL’s mandate, LAF soldiers are primarily responsible for ensuring security in south Lebanon. Since the beginning of 2008, UNIFIL and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) further intensified their cooperation and moved beyond coordinating their operational activities to carrying out a small percentage of their activities together on a daily basis. Currently 10 per cent of all UNIFIL patrols are carried out jointly with LAF.
While joint patrols with LAF are happening, UNIFIL does the majority of its patrols across the area of operations without LAF being physically present. However, every patrol UNIFIL carries out is done in close coordination with LAF and any unusual or suspicious activity observed by UNIFIL peacekeepers is reported to LAF.