Report of the Secretary-General: Implementation of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006) - Reporting period from 1 March 2018 to 20 June 2018 (S/2018/703) [EN/AR]
- The present report provides a comprehensive assessment of the implementation of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006) since my report on 8 March 2018 (S/2018/210), including on the specific provisions of Security Council resolution 2373 (2017). During the reporting period, there was no progress with regard to the outstanding obligations of the parties under resolution 1701 (2006) or towards a permanent ceasefire. The situation in the area of operations of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) remained generally calm.
II. Implementation of resolution 1701 (2006)
A. Situation in the area of operations of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon
Despite the continued relative calm along the Blue Line and in the area of operations and the reaffirmed commitment by the Israeli and Lebanese authorities to resolution 1701 (2006), several developments heightened tensions. The UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander and my Acting Special Coordinator for Lebanon maintained permanent liaison with both parties to de-escalate tensions and continued to urge them to refrain from inflammatory rhetoric or any action threatening the cessation of hostilities and to utilize established channels to address concerns.
As in other parts of Lebanon, the UNIFIL area of operations was calm throughout the electoral period, including on Election Day on 6 May. The Lebanese Armed Forces and other security institutions increased their presence during the election period in the UNIFIL area of operations. At the request of UNIFIL, the Israel Defense Forces suspended construction works south of the Blue Line on 6 May. Celebratory shooting was heard in Tyre (Sector West) when preliminary election results were released.
UNIFIL continued to monitor the construction works by the Israel Defense Forces south of the Blue Line, which started in January and led to tense situations on several occasions. On 8 April, as the works started east of the Blue Line close to the Kafr Kila Udaysah road (Sector East), a protester aimed what appeared to be a pistol towards UNIFIL. UNIFIL informed the Lebanese Armed Forces, which dispersed the protesters. On 12 April, in Kafr Kila, a sound from the backfire of a vehicle that was mistaken for a gunshot prompted the Israel Defense Forces to deploy to the location with rocket launchers, while the Lebanese Armed Forces took up positions with heavy machine guns. UNIFIL, through its liaison branch, de-escalated the situation.
UNIFIL observed in four separate instances weapons pointed by the Israel Defense Forces towards the north, including two incidents in which Israeli soldiers pointed their weapons towards Observer Group Lebanon and UNIFIL troops. On 31 March, UNIFIL observed Lebanese Armed Forces and Israel Defense Forces personnel pointing their weapons at each other near Udaysah. UNIFIL personnel intervened to defuse the situation.
On 10 May, the Israel Defense Forces alerted UNIFIL of potential spillover into the Shabʻa area (Sector East) from kinetic activity on the Golan, outside the UNIFIL area of operations, and advised UNIFIL troops in the area to take protective measures. UNIFIL heard 41 explosions and observed 21 traces of rockets being fired south of Kfar Shuba (Sector East). Later that day, the Lebanese Armed Forces informed UNIFIL that they had found and removed debris from an air defence missile in Habbariyah close to Shabʻa. UNIFIL increased its counter-rocket-launching operations in the area.
The Lebanese Armed Forces and other security institutions successfully maintained calm during peaceful public gatherings throughout Lebanon during Palestinian Land Day on 30 March, the inauguration of the United States Embassy in Jerusalem on 14 May, Nakbah Day on 15 May and al-Quds Day on 8 June, when more than 1,000 people gathered in Marun al-Ra’s (Sector West). The situation in the UNIFIL area of operations remained calm.
In reference to the visit of an Iranian official to the UNIFIL area of operations on 28 January cited in my last report (S/2018/210), the Lebanese Minister of Defense, in a letter dated 13 April addressed to the President of the Security Council, stated that the Iranian official was accompanied by a member of the Lebanese Parliament, and that “his escort was not visibly carrying weapons”.
From 1 March to 19 June, UNIFIL recorded 475 Blue Line ground violations, including 347 violations by shepherds, predominantly in the Shabʻa Farms area, and by farmers cultivating their fields, mainly near Rumaysh, and 127 violations involving civilians and 1 violation by an unarmed Lebanese Armed Forces soldier accessing the Shu‘ayb well near Blida (Sector East).
On six occasions, UNIFIL observed firing in the air by the Israel Defense Forces, apparently to deter civilians, mainly shepherds, from crossing the Blue Line, in the Shabʻa area. On 2 May, the Israel Defense Forces fired two smoke grenades close to seven individuals crossing the Blue Line in Kafr Kila. The Israel Defense Forces apprehended a woman and a shepherd crossing south of the Blue Line on 28 March and 2 May, respectively. Both individuals were returned within 24 hours in the presence of UNIFIL and the Lebanese Armed Forces. UNIFIL is investigating the incidents. UNIFIL repeatedly urged the Israel Defense Forces to refrain from using live ammunition when firing warning shots and repeatedly urged the Lebanese Armed Forces to prevent Blue Line violations by civilians.
Israel continued to violate Lebanese airspace almost daily, in violation of resolution 1701 (2006) and Lebanese sovereignty. From 1 March to 19 June, UNIFIL recorded 456 air violations, totalling 1,518 overflight hours. Unmanned aerial vehicles accounted for 368 (80.7 per cent) of these violations, with the remaining violations involving fighter jets or unidentified aircraft. UNIFIL protested all air violations to the Israel Defense Forces and urged their immediate cessation.
Early on 31 March, UNIFIL detected an unmanned aerial vehicle entering Lebanese airspace from south of the Blue Line. Two hours later, the Israel Defense Forces informed UNIFIL that an Israeli unmanned aerial vehicle was missing in the UNIFIL area of operations near Bayt Yahun (Sector West). As the Lebanese Armed Forces and UNIFIL arrived at the crash site, UNIFIL observed the remains of a tactical reconnaissance drone and four Mikholit missiles with Hebrew markings. An explosive ordnance disposal team of the Lebanese Armed Forces conducted a controlled demolition of the four missiles.
The Israeli occupation of northern Ghajar and an adjacent area north of the Blue Line continued, in violation of resolution 1701 (2006) and Lebanese sovereignty. Israel has not responded to the UNIFIL proposal submitted to both parties in 2011, aimed at facilitating the withdrawal of the Israel Defense Forces from the occupied area. The Lebanese Armed Forces informed UNIFIL in July 2011 of the agreement of Lebanon to the proposal.
The delineation of the maritime boundary between Israel and Lebanon remains disputed. Lebanon protested the alleged violations of its sovereignty by Israeli vessels operating near the Israeli line of buoys. Lebanon maintains that the line of buoys, installed unilaterally by Israel, runs through its territorial waters, and does not recognize it. The United Nations does not recognize the line of buoys. Lebanon also alleged that Israel continues to violate its sovereignty by conducting electronic monitoring, espionage and surveillance through infrastructure deployed south of and along the Blue Line and devices placed on Lebanese territory.
Pursuant to resolution 1701 (2006), UNIFIL continued to assist the Lebanese Armed Forces in establishing an area between the Blue Line and the Litani River free of unauthorized armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL. With an increasing focus on inspections, UNIFIL and the Lebanese Armed Forces operated 8 permanent checkpoints daily and a daily average of 4 temporary checkpoints and 10 counter-rocket-launching operations across the area of operations, with the Lebanese Armed Forces spotchecking vehicles. UNIFIL stands ready to act independently within the full scope of its mandate and capabilities should there be credible evidence or information supporting the presence of unauthorized weapons or the imminent threat of hostile activity emanating from the area of operations. UNIFIL continued to monitor locations where the Israel Defense Forces alleged the presence of unauthorized weapons and infrastructure in the UNIFIL area of operations, but has not observed any violations of resolution 1701 (2006).
In the course of its activities, UNIFIL observed 190 instances of individuals carrying unauthorized arms in violation of resolution 1701 (2006), 189 of which involved hunting weapons, mostly in the areas of Yarun (Sector West), Bastrah, Blida, Mays al-Jabal and Sarda (all Sector East), in the vicinity of the Blue Line. The other incident occurred on 9 May, when UNIFIL, patrolling in coordination with the Lebanese Armed Forces, observed an individual in camouflage with an automatic rifle in a vehicle near Adshit al Qusayr (Sector East). UNIFIL alerted the Lebanese Armed Forces in all instances, including in a letter to the Commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces South Litani Sector, and requested that appropriate measures be taken (see para. 35 below).
Pursuant to paragraph 15 of resolution 2373 (2017), UNIFIL further increased its visible presence and activities, with a focus on preserving the cessation of hostilities. In monitoring the cessation of hostilities, UNIFIL sustained its operational tempo as well as non-operational activities to mitigate risks in a timely manner, thereby preventing small incidents from escalating into larger-scale violence. The number of UNIFIL monthly operational activities has increased from 13,362 in August 2017 to 14,871 in May 2018, with a 68 per cent increase in foot patrols and a 28 per cent increase in the average flight hours of reconnaissance air patrols. More than a third of all activities were conducted at night.
From 1 March to 19 June, UNIFIL conducted 53,285 military operational activities, including 25,174 patrols. UNIFIL increased its static operational activities, with 120 permanent and temporary observation posts in May, up from 73 in February. UNIFIL continued its intensified foot patrols in urban areas where narrow roadways and community concerns do not allow for the use of heavy vehicles. UNIFIL increased the number of foot patrols along the Blue Line from 1,767 in January to 1,909 in May. UNIFIL’s vehicular, foot and air patrols covered all municipalities and villages in the area of operations. UNIFIL maintained close contact with the Lebanese Armed Forces and community leaders in southern Lebanon in order to addre ss any sensitivities without compromising mandated tasks.
The freedom of movement of UNIFIL was generally respected, except for those occasions detailed in annex I. In some cases, members of local communities opposed the use of heavy military vehicles on narrow roadways in populated areas.
During the month of May, three UNIFIL patrols and four patrols of Observer Group Lebanon were stopped by individuals wearing green uniform-like attire at the gates of a facility operated by the Lebanese non-governmental organization “Green Without Borders” in the vicinity of Aytarun (Sector West) near the Blue Line. The men claimed that UNIFIL and Observer Group Lebanon could only enter if accompanied by the Lebanese Armed Forces. The Head of Mission and Force Commander of UNIFIL informed the Commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces, General Joseph Aoun, that it was imperative for UNIFIL, including Observer Group Lebanon, to independently access and patrol all areas within its area of operations without hindrance. Following a joint visit on 19 June, the UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander and the South Litani Sector Commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces agreed to resume patrols in close coordination along the road.
Among the seven identified “Green Without Borders” locations in the area of operations, all close to the Blue Line, UNIFIL and Observer Group Lebanon are able to visit the second site in Aytarun almost daily. The sites in Ayta al-Sha‘b and Marwahin and the two sites in Labbunah, all in Sector West, as well as the site in Udaysah in Sector East, are purportedly located on private property. UNIFIL is following up with the Lebanese Armed Forces regarding access to these areas. Meanwhile, UNIFIL conducts vehicular patrols along the surrounding roads and regular air reconnaissance of these areas.
Further enhancing the use of air assets, UNIFIL conducted on average 54.2 day and night reconnaissance flight hours per month, a 27 per cent increase compared to the last reporting period. Air reconnaissance patrols were concentrated over areas with limited access by UNIFIL ground patrols, such as private property, rugged terrain or terrain contaminated by explosive remnants of war or anti-personnel mines. Relations between UNIFIL and the local population remained largely positive. UNIFIL implemented quick-impact projects to address the pressing needs of local communities, to support the extension of State authority in the South and to contribute to force acceptance in line with the priorities identified during the strategic review of UNIFIL (see S/2017/202). A full update regarding the implementation of the recommendations of the 2017 strategic review is provided in annex II.
UNIFIL conducted 7,271 activities in coordination with the Lebanese Armed Forces, including permanent and temporary checkpoints and counter-rocketlaunching operations. UNIFIL conducted a daily average of 66 activities, in close coordination with the Lebanese Armed Forces (19 per cent of all activities). Coordinated activities focused, in particular, on stepping up the number of foot patrols along the Blue Line, which increased from 15 in February to 236 in March.
The UNIFIL Maritime Task Force carried out maritime interdiction operations on a 24-hour basis and capacity-building for the Lebanese Armed Forces-Navy. From 1 March to 19 June, the Maritime Task Force hailed 2,535 vessels, 643 of which were inspected and cleared by the Lebanese authorities. The Lebanese Navy maintains a current maritime picture of its waters through its eight coastal radar stations. UNIFIL conducted 198 training sessions to improve common operational standards for surveillance and hailing activities. This also included training for the participation of a Lebanese naval vessel in maritime operations for an uninterrupted period of 48 hours alongside UNIFIL vessels. In addition, the UNIFIL Maritime Task Force continues to play an important stabilizing role in controlling Lebanese territorial waters.