BEIRUT, Lebanon – The United Nations Mission in Lebanon on Sunday called on the country’s military to guarantee the safety of its peacekeepers, claiming the staff had been “threatened” by gunmen the day before.
The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has long been stationed in the south of the country – a stronghold of the powerful Shia terrorist group Hezbollah – to maintain a barrier with Israel as the two countries remain technically at war.
A routine UNIFIL patrol was confronted on Saturday by “a group of men in civilian clothes” near the Arab district of al-Louaize in south Lebanon, spokesman for the armed forces Andrea Tenenti said in a statement.
The men “threatened the soldiers and tried to take their weapons,” he said.
“Attacks, threats and intimidation against UNIFIL peacekeepers … raise serious concerns and we call on the Lebanese Armed Forces to ensure the security and freedom of movement of the UN force,” he said in a statement.
Lebanese authorities have not commented on Saturday’s incident.
UNIFIL was reinforced after a devastating month-long war in 2006 between Israel and Hezbollah.
Hezbollah was the only faction allowed to keep its arms after the end of Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war, and tensions between its supporters and UN peacekeepers are far from rare, although they are usually quickly contained.
UNIFIL is largely made up of contingents from European countries and has around 10,000 peacekeepers in Lebanon.