Lebanon-Israel border in 'dangerous' state, UN peacekeeping chief says

More than 130 people have been killed in hostilities on the Lebanese side of the frontier, some civilians

By AFP

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Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

Published: Mon 18 Dec 2023, 7:57 PM

The situation on Lebanon's border with Israel is "dangerous" with ongoing exchanges of fire between Hezbollah and Israel, the head of the United Nations peacekeeping force in the country warned on Monday.

"The situation now, as everybody knows, it is tense. It is difficult, it is dangerous," said Aroldo Lazaro, head of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

Since October 8, the day after the Israel-Hamas conflict started, the frontier between Lebanon and Israel has seen escalating cross-border fire, mainly between the Israeli army and Iran-backed Hezbollah, which says it is acting in support of Hamas.

"We are trying to continue with our liaison and coordination role... in order to avoid miscalculations, misinterpretations that could be another trigger for escalation," Lazaro told journalists ahead of a meeting in Beirut with French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna.

More than 130 people have been killed in hostilities on the Lebanese side of the frontier, according to an AFP tally, most of them Hezbollah fighters but also including a Lebanese soldier and 17 civilians, three of them journalists.

On the Israeli side, four civilians and seven soldiers have been killed, authorities have said.

Lazaro emphasised the correlation between events in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and the increase in tensions in south Lebanon.

He added that Hezbollah was using longer-range weapons, while Israeli aircraft were violating Lebanon's air space.

However, "during the last three days, we have seen a little bit more reduced exchanges of fire," Lazaro said.

The UN force has itself been hit by fire in recent weeks, without causing any deaths among peacekeepers.

UNIFIL was set up in 1978 to monitor the withdrawal of Israeli forces after they invaded Lebanon in reprisal for a Palestinian attack.

It was bolstered after Hezbollah and Israel fought a devastating war in 2006.

Colonna was meeting with senior officials in Beirut on Monday, a day after visiting Israel and the occupied West Bank, as part of efforts to de-escalate the situation on the border.

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