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August 26, 2021

United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)

Since 1978, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon
(UNIFIL) has been deployed in the Lebanon-Israel-Syria
triborder area. The formal boundaries dividing the three
countries remain disputed. The United States has supported
UNIFIL financially and diplomatically, with the aim of
bolstering and expanding the authority of the Lebanese
Armed Forces (LAF) in UNIFIL's operating area (see
Figure 1) in southern Lebanon, a region historically
dominated by Hezbollah (also spelled Hizballah).
Evolution of UNIFIL Mandate
UNIFIL's initial mandate was to confirm the withdrawal of
Israeli forces from southern Lebanon, restore peace and
security, and assist the Lebanese government in restoring its
authority in southern Lebanon (a traditionally Shi'a area
that became a Hezbollah stronghold in the 1980s). In May
2000, Israel withdrew its forces from southern Lebanon.
The following month, the United Nations identified a 120
km interim boundary line between Lebanon and Israel to
use as a reference for the purpose of confirming the
withdrawal of Israeli forces. The Line of Withdrawal,
commonly known as the Blue Line, is not an international
border demarcation between the two states.
Following the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war, UNSCR 1701
(2006) increased UNIFIL's troop ceiling and expanded its
mandate to include monitoring the cessation of hostilities
between the two sides, accompanying and supporting the
LAF as they deployed throughout southern Lebanon, and
helping to ensure humanitarian access to civilian
populations. UNSCR 1701 authorized UNIFIL to assist the
Lebanese government in the establishment of an area free
of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than
those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL
between the Blue Line and the Litani River, which UNIFIL
defines as its area of operations (See Figure 1). UNSCR
1701 also calls upon the government of Lebanon to secure
its borders and asks UNIFIL to assist the Government of
Lebanon at its request.
Implementation of UNSCR 1701
According to UNIFIL, Any unauthorized crossing of the
Blue Line by land or by air from any side constitutes a
violation of Security Council resolution 1701. Since 2007,
UNIFIL has worked with Lebanese and Israeli authorities to
mark the Blue Line on the ground via 272 blue barrels, a
contested process that stalled in 2017 and remains
unfinished. UNIFIL continues to monitor violations of
UNSCR 1701, and the U.N. Secretary-General reports
regularly to the U.N. Security Council on the
implementation of UNSCR 1701. These reports have listed
violations by Hezbollah, such as the construction of
underground tunnels that cross beneath the Blue Line, as
well as violations by Israel, such as regular incursions into
Lebanese airspace.


Figure I. UNIFIL Area of Operations

Boundaries are not necessardly authoritative. the United states recognized
the Golan Heights as part of Israei in 20W9 U.N Security Councdl Resolution
497, ad opred on Deceiner 17, 1981 held that the area of the GWan Heights
controlled by israel t military is orcupied territory belonging to Syria,
Source: Created by CRS. Boundaries from ESRI and U.S. State
Notes: UNDOF = United Nations Disengagement Observer Force.
Size and Structure
UNIFIL is headquartered in the Lebanese town of Naqoura,
14 miles south of Tyre. Its leadership rotates among troop-
contributing states; since 2018 UNIFIL has been led by
Major General Stefano Del Col (Italy). As of August 2021,
UNIFIL deploys approximately 10,300 troops from 46
countries in a 1060 square km zone roughly a third the size
of Rhode Island. The largest troop contributing countries
are Italy, Indonesia, Nepal, Ghana, and India. (U.S. forces
do not participate in UNIFIL). UNIFIL also has a civilian
staff of roughly 800. UNIFIL's mandate falls under Chapter
VI of the U.N. Charter, which allows for the use of force
primarily in self-defense, rather than Chapter VII, which
would enable enforcement by military means. Since 1978,
UNIFIL has reported 323 fatalities. Three-quarters of
reported fatalities occurred prior to 2000.
Maritime Task Force
Since the discovery in 2009 of large offshore gas fields in
the Mediterranean, unresolved issues over the demarcation
of Lebanon's land border with Israel have resulted in
disputes over maritime boundaries, and in 2011 Lebanese
authorities called on the U.N. to establish a maritime
equivalent of the Blue Line. U.N. officials stated that
UNIFIL does not have the authority to establish a maritime
boundary. However, UNIFIL has maintained a Maritime

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