Resolution passed, fighting continues

Posted in Politics + Diplomacy by expresscheckout on 13 August, 2006

UN peacekeeping officers Qana July 30 06

Morning Roundup: U.N. Security on Council Calls for End of Bloodshed While Israel Launches Widescale Ground Offensive
Naharnet, Beirut
August 12, 2006

The U.N. Security Council has unanimously called for an end to the bloodshed between Israel and Hizbullah and for the deployment of a 15,000-strong international peacekeeping force to prevent further conflict.
But the resolution, passed late Friday, was followed by an Israeli army announcement that it had launched a widescale offensive in south Lebanon early Saturday.

Also, hours after the text was adopted, Israeli warplanes staged raids throughout Lebanon, targeting roads leading to Syria and destroying the electricity plant in south Lebanon’s major city Sidon, security officials said, adding that several people had been killed.

Resolution 1701, drawn up by the United States and France calls for Israeli troops to be withdrawn from southern Lebanon after an end to the fighting.

The council called for “a full cessation of hostilities based upon, in particular, the immediate cessation by Hizbullah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations.”

A few hours before the resolution was passed, an Israeli drone fired at a convoy of refugees being evacuated from the southern town of Marjayoun, killing at least seven people and wounding 36.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert endorsed the resolution shortly after it was adopted and decided to urge his cabinet to accept it when it meets Sunday, an Israeli government spokesman said.

However, his military later said it was going ahead with formerly approved plans for a ground offensive up to the Litani.

“In line with Wednesday’s decision by the security cabinet, the army has launched a ground operation in south Lebanon which is expected to extend up to the Litani river,” an army spokesman said.

“Ground troops will benefit from air and sea cover,” he added.

In one of the most dramatic development in the fighting Friday, an Israeli unmanned plane fired at the convoy, which included a 350 joint Lebanese army and police force as well as 500 civilian cars. They left Marjayoun after hours of U.N. mediated negotiations which succeeding in receiving Israeli assurances for the convoy’s safety.

The attack came as the convoy was en route from Jib Jannin to Kefraya in the south of the Bekaa valley, security officials said. They said most of the casualties were civilians.

“The Israeli forces had been told in advance of the convoy’s passage, and had given it the green light,” UNIFIL spokesman Milos Strugar said.

“We are trying to find out what happened,” he added.

The Lebanese cabinet was to meet Saturday and U.S. officials said it was also expected to accept the resolution.

But Lebanese acting Foreign Minister Tarek Mitri expressed profound doubts about the likelihood of the resolution being able to end the month-old war.

“A ceasefire that is incomplete is not a true ceasefire. A ceasefire that retains for one side the right not to cease firing is not a ceasefire,” Mitri said.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned Iran and Syria — considered Hizbullah’s main backers — to respect the resolution, which she said should lay the basis for “lasting peace” between Israel and Lebanon.

But U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said the time it had taken the major powers to call for a cessation of hostilities had “badly shaken” the world’s faith in the council.

The text calls on Lebanon and UNIFIL to “deploy their forces together” in the south, while Israel must “withdraw all of its forces from southern Lebanon in parallel” to the deployment.

The first version of the French-U.S. text had not mentioned a withdrawal and Lebanon had objected, demanding an immediate Israeli pullout.

The text also authorizes an increase in UNIFIL’s strength to a maximum of 15,000 troops from its current size of about 1,190 troops. Lebanon plans to send 15,000 troops to the south.

UNIFIL will monitor the cessation of hostilities and any permanent ceasefire and back up Lebanese armed forces as they deploy across the region now dominated by Hizbullah.

Israel has criticized UNIFIL, which has failed to prevent Hizbullah attacks in recent years, and demanded a more “robust” international force in terms of size and powers to restrain Hizbullah be deployed.

The resolution gives UNIFIL the power to “take all necessary action in areas of deployment of its forces, and as it deems within its capabilities, to ensure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind.”

The text did not say which chapter of the U.N. charter it would be organized under. The United States had wanted a mandate under chapter seven which would give it greater military muscle.

This was opposed by Lebanon. But a senior U.S. State Department official said the force “will be able to defend itself and has a very strong mandate which you would see in a chapter seven resolution.”

French ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said he thought the extra troops could be deployed “very swiftly” as it is the strengthening of an existing U.N. force and not the creation of a new entity.

A U.S. official said a meeting could be held at the U.N. headquarters on Saturday for potential troop contributors.

The resolution also calls for the “unconditional release” of two Israeli soldiers whose abduction by Hizbullah sparked the start of the war on July 12.

Lebanon had raised late questions about the status of the international force and the future of the disputed Shabaa Farms border region, which Israel has occupied since 1967.

The text calls for U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to make proposals to settle the Shabaa Farms dispute within 30 days of the vote. (AFP-AP-Naharnet)


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