Lebanon + 2 more

Implementation of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006) during the period from 19 June 2021 to 25 October 2021 - Report of the Secretary-General (S/2021/953) [EN/AR]

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I. Introduction

1. The present report provides a comprehensive assessment of the implementation of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006) since my previous report, dated 13 July 2021 (S/2021/650), including on the provisions of resolution 2591 (2021). Outstanding obligations remain for both parties under resolution 1701 (2006). There was no progress towards a permanent ceasefire between Lebanon and Israel.

II. Implementation of resolution 1701 (2006)

A. Situation in the area of operations of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon

2. Heightened tensions persisted in the area of operations of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), in particular along the Blue Line.

3. On 20 July, UNIFIL detected two rockets launched from north-west of Qulay‘ah (Sector West) towards Israel, followed by seven 155 millimetre (mm) artillery rounds fired from south of the Blue Line towards an area north-east of Naqurah (Sector West). Shortly thereafter, the Israel Defense Forces confirmed to UNIFIL that two rockets had been launched from Lebanon, one of which had been intercepted by the Iron Dome air defence system, while the second fell in an open area inside Israel, and that the Israel Defense Forces responded with artillery fire towards Lebanon. Later the same day, UNIFIL, with the Lebanese Armed Forces, visited the suspected launch site north-west of Qulay‘ah, where the Lebanese Armed Forces showed UNIFIL one intact rocket.

4. On 4 August, UNIFIL detected two rockets launched from Jarmaq (north of the UNIFIL area of operations) towards Israel. Shortly thereafter, the Israel Defense Forces confirmed to UNIFIL that three rockets had been fired from Lebanon, with two of them impacting close to the Qiryat Shemona shopping centre in Israel, and that the Israel Defense Forces responded with artillery fire towards several areas in Lebanon. UNIFIL observed approximately 80 artillery shells impa cting close to Sarda, Khiyam, Shab‘a (all Sector East) and Naqurah, including the Wadi Hamul area.

5. Early on 5 August, UNIFIL personnel in Marjayoun (Sector East) heard two explosions. Shortly thereafter, the Israel Defense Forces confirmed to UNIFIL tha t it had conducted air strikes targeting three areas in South Lebanon in the vicinity of the Palestine refugee camp of Rashidiye, south of Tyre (Sector West), Ibil al-Saqi (Sector East) and Mahmudiyah (outside the UNIFIL area of operations). The following day, the Lebanese Armed Forces escorted UNIFIL to the impact sites close to Rashidiye and Ibil al-Saqi, where UNIFIL observed the impact craters.

6. On 6 August, UNIFIL detected rockets fired from Hasbaya (north of the UNIFIL area of operations) towards the Israeli-occupied Golan. Shortly thereafter, the Israel Defense Forces informed UNIFIL that 19 rockets had been fired from Lebanon towards Israel, of which 10 were intercepted by the Iron Dome, 6 fell in open areas in Israel and 3 fell in Lebanon, and that the Israel Defense Forces had responded with artillery fire towards several areas in Lebanon. UNIFIL detected approximately 55 artillery shells fired from south of the Blue Line, impacting close to Kfar Shuba and Bastrah (Sector East), causing a bushfire. UNIFIL detected Israeli fighter aircraft in Lebanese airspace around that time. As the shelling was ongoing, Hizbullah issued a statement claiming responsibility for the rocket fire, stating, “in response to the Israeli airstrikes against open Lebanese lands in Jarmaq and Shawakir on 5 August,” “the Islamic Resistance bombed open areas in Israeli-occupied territories surrounding the Israeli occupied military sites in the Shab‘a Farms area, using dozens of 122 mm missiles”. Subsequently, the Lebanese Armed Forces informed UNIFIL that four individuals, who they alleged were members of Hizbullah, had been arrested in Hasbaya and that the Lebanese Armed Forces had found a multi-barrel rocket launcher used during the incident. Later the same day, Hizbullah issued a second statement affirming that “the resistance fighters had been intercepted by a number of citizens”. The Commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces subsequently informed the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon that the four suspects had been released pending trial, following a decision by the Lebanese State General Prosecutor.

7. In identical letters dated 6 August addressed to the President of the Security Council and to me (S/2021/710), the Permanent Representative of Israel asserted that “Israel holds the Government of Lebanon responsible for any action originating from within its territory, regardless of the affiliation of the individuals or the terrorist group that carried out the attacks”. The letter further stated that “it is clear that Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations are trying to distract from their active role in bringing Lebanon to its current state of crisis by attacking Israeli civilians” . In identical letters dated 6 August addressed to the President of the Security Council and to me (A/75/988-S/2021/711) regarding the Israel Defense Forces’ artillery fire on 4 August and airstrikes on 5 August, the Permanent Representative of Lebanon conveyed her Government’s condemnation of “hostile acts and clear violations of Lebanese sovereignty and of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006)”. In a letter dated 12 August addressed to the President of the Security Council and to me (S/2021/725), the Permanent Representative of Israel expressed “extreme concern regarding the manner in which Lebanese authorities handled the attacks”, “particularly the immediate release by the Government of Lebanon of the four Hezbollah terrorists who perpetrated the rocket attacks”.

8. Throughout these incidents, UNIFIL was in continuous contact with the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Israel Defense Forces to clarify the situation, facilitate a coordinated operational response and prevent further escalation. The parties worked closely with UNIFIL to contain the situation. UNIFIL has launched technical investigations into the incidents of 20 July and those of 4, 5 and 6 August. In a statement on 8 August, I expressed “deep concern about the recent escalation between Lebanon and Israel across the Blue Line, including rocket fire into Israel and return air strikes and artillery fire into Lebanon”.

9. During the reporting period, UNIFIL continued to observe illumination rounds fired by the Israel Defense Forces in response to what the latter asserted were suspicious activities. On seven occasions, illumination rounds impacted north of the Blue Line close to Yarun, Marun al-Ra’s and Majidiye (all Sector West) and Sarda, and, on three occasions, close to Ghajar (Sector East). On 10 July, the Israel Defense Forces reported on social media that it had thwarted the “largest smuggling attempt in the last few years” in the area of Ghajar, during which it had seized 43 handguns. Weapon pointing across the Blue Line also continued, requiring UNIFIL to interpose between the parties on 21 July in Mays al-Jabal and on 21 June and 13 August in Udaysah (Sector East). On 13 September and 24 October, UNIFIL observed an Israel Defense Forces soldier throwing a flash grenade towards civilians approaching the Blue Line in the vicinity of Hula (Sector East). UNIFIL also observed the Israel Defense Forces firing in the air close to Hula, Blida and Mays al-Jabal (all Sector East), seemingly to deter civilians from approaching the Blue Line.

10. The Israel Defense Forces continued to enter Lebanese airspace in violation of resolution 1701 (2006) and of Lebanese sovereignty. From 19 June to 25 October, UNIFIL recorded 286 airspace violations, totalling 377 hours and 39 minutes in overflight time. Unmanned aerial vehicles accounted for approximately 75 per cent of the violations. The remaining airspace violations involved fighter aircraft or unidentified aircraft. In two separate instances, on 16 July and 30 September, the Israel Defense Forces informed UNIFIL that one of its unmanned aerial vehicles had crashed in Lebanon. The Lebanese Armed Forces repeatedly denied UNIFIL requests to access the suspected crash site from 30 September. The 16 July crash site remains undetermined. On 12 August, the Israel Defence Forces informed UNIFIL that it had shot down a drone, which it claimed belonged to Hizbullah, close to Shetula, in Israel, on 11 August. UNIFIL is following up with the parties regarding the three incidents.

11. From 19 June to 25 October, UNIFIL recorded 318 ground violations by Lebanese civilians crossing south of the Blue Line, including 237 violations by shepherds and farmers, mainly in the Shab‘a Farms area, and 45 violations by civilians on their way to the Shu‘ayb well near Blida. On 23 July, UNIFIL observed five individuals equipped with night vision equipment crossing south of the Blue Line near Marun al-Ra’s, climbing over the Israeli technical fence, then returning north of the Blue Line minutes later. UNIFIL also recorded Israel Defense Forces soldiers crossing north of the Blue Line close to Kfar Shuba (Sector East) on 16 September while chasing livestock that had crossed south of the Blue Line. From 9 October, following a request by the Lebanese Armed Forces and in coordination with the Israel Defense Forces, UNIFIL deployed to Blida and, for the first time, to Mays al-Jabal and Aytarun (Sector West) to facilitate the temporary crossing of the Blue Line of Lebanese farmers for harvest purposes. On 11 October, UNIFIL observed seven unarmed Lebanese Armed Forces soldiers crossing the Blue Line in connection with the olive harvest in Blida.

12. On 22 July, the Israel Defense Forces informed UNIFIL that it had apprehended two Turkish citizens who had crossed south of the Blue Line in the vicinity of Yarun. On 17 September, the International Committee of the Red Cross, in coordination wit h UNIFIL, facilitated the return of a Lebanese individual who had crossed into Israel the previous day. On 23 September, the Lebanese Armed Forces informed UNIFIL that it had prevented two Sudanese citizens from crossing south of the Blue Line close to Marun al-Ra’s. On 1 October, the Israel Defense Forces informed UNIFIL that it had apprehended a Lebanese shepherd who had crossed south of the Blue Line close to Kfar Shuba. The shepherd was returned to Lebanon later that day in coordination with UNIFIL.

13. The occupation of northern Ghajar and an adjacent area north of the Blue Line by the Israel Defense Forces continued. While the Government of Lebanon has welcomed the UNIFIL proposal of 2011 for the facilitation of the withdrawal of the Israel Defense Forces from the occupied area, the Government of Israel has yet to respond.

14. To assist keeping the area between the Blue Line and the Litani River free of unauthorized armed personnel, assets and weapons, UNIFIL, in close coordination with the Lebanese Armed Forces, maintained 8 permanent and an average of 122 temporary checkpoints and conducted 325 counter-rocket-launching operations on average each month. UNIFIL observed unauthorized weapons in the area of operations on 264 occasions. All but the following four incidents involved hunting weapons. On 24 June, a UNIFIL patrol in close coordination with the Lebanese Armed Forces observed two individuals on a road in Siddiqin (Sector West), one of whom carried an assault rifle. On 14 July, UNIFIL observed two individuals on a scooter in the vicinity of Kafr Kila (Sector East), one of whom fired two shots from a pistol towards the Blue Line. On 22 July, UNIFIL observed three individuals armed with assault rifles near the Blue Line in the vicinity of Marun al-Ra’s. The individuals fired 54 shots in a southerly direction. In response, UNIFIL deployed a quick reaction team to the location; no further armed activity was observed. On 24 August, UNIFIL observed three individuals, each carrying an automatic rifle, in the vicinity of Burj Qallawiyah (Sector West). As one of the individuals left the area, the remaining two fired long bursts into the ground. UNIFIL informed the Lebanese Armed Forces of each of the incidents.

15. Pursuant to resolution 2591 (2021), UNIFIL maintained its high operational tempo and visible presence throughout the area of operations, conducting on average 14,345 monthly military operational activities, including 6,273 patrols. UNIFIL vehicular, foot and air patrols maintained an operational footprint in municipalities and villages in the area of operations. Air reconnaissance patrols continued over areas to which ground patrols have limited access, including private property and land contaminated by explosive remnants of war or anti-personnel mines, and wadis. Community engagement walks remain suspended owing to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). UNIFIL conducted a monthly average of 160 trainings for land forces with the Lebanese Armed Forces. Due to Lebanese Armed Forces resource constraints, the number of UNIFIL operations conducted in close coordination with the Lebanese Armed Forces declined to an average of 14.7 per cent, compared with a 16 per cent average during the previous reporting period. UNIFIL consequently increased the number of its independent operational activities.

16. UNIFIL has yet to gain full access to several locations of interest, including some Green without Borders sites. On 5 October, UNIFIL sent a letter to the Lebanese Armed Forces requesting access to a number of these sites. Meanwhile, UNIFIL has continued to monitor the perimeter of the locations of interest, including through air and foot patrols. UNIFIL observed works for the reconstruction of towers in the Gre en without Borders sites in Ramiyah and Ayta al-Sha‘b (both Sector West) that had been destroyed by the Israel Defense Forces on 25 August 2020, as detailed in paragraph 3 of my report dated 12 November 2020 (S/2020/1110). While the freedom of movement of UNIFIL was respected in most cases, the mission did encounter some restrictions to its movements (see annex I). The most serious such incidents occurred on 30 July in Bint Jubayl (Sector West), when several individuals seized weapons and ammunition from a UNIFIL patrol, and on 24 October, when a group of individuals damaged two UNIFIL vehicles in the vicinity of Kunin (Sector West) and took several items, while a peacekeeper sustained minor injuries. UNIFIL has requested the Lebanese Armed Forces to recover the items and bring the perpetrators to justice.

17. The UNIFIL Maritime Task Force continued to carry out maritime interdiction operations throughout the maritime area of operations, hailing 2,502 vessels. Lebanese Armed Forces inspected and cleared all 335 such vessels that UNIFIL referred to them for inspection.

18. UNIFIL and the Lebanese Navy continued preparatory steps for a partial transfer of Maritime Task Force responsibilities, with UNIFIL conducting 537 training sessions and exercises. UNIFIL and the Lebanese Navy jointly practiced common operational standards for commanding, monitoring and hailing activities, including 21 advanced maritime interdiction operation integration trainings for a durati on of at least 72 hours. The participation of Lebanese Navy ships fluctuated owing to resource constraints. UNIFIL and the Lebanese Navy also conducted 21 search and rescue exercises, in addition to nine exercises with Lebanese helicopter crews in deck - landing and winching procedures. In-person training at the Jounieh Naval School resumed fully at the beginning of July, respecting COVID-19 precautionary measures.

19. The Lebanese Armed Forces and UNIFIL continued their engagement within the framework of the strategic dialogue process. Construction works for the model regiment headquarters at Sribbin (Sector West), initiated in March (see S/2021/650, para. 22), continued, with the Lebanese Armed Forces contributing 4,000 litres of diesel fuel to the construction company.

20. Pursuant to paragraph 11 of resolution 2591 (2021), UNIFIL established a committee to discuss with the Lebanese Armed Forces its requirements in terms of fuel, food, medicine and logistical support for the Lebanese Armed Forces to maintain critical operational capacity in the framework of joint activities with UNIFIL. UNIFIL and the Lebanese Armed Forces are preparing an agreement providing for the modalities and scope of the support, and a monitoring mechanism to ensure strict compliance with the human rights due diligence policy. UNIFIL will draw on the expertise of the United Nations country team to provide information sessions and training to the Lebanese Armed Forces. A centralized delivery system is in place, reflecting actual coordinated activities on a monthly basis, to ensure oversight and scrutiny of the end-use of the assistance. As of the drafting of the present report, UNIFIL had made a first delivery of medicines to the Lebanese Armed Forces.