By Meredith Lee-Clark
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
BEIRUT, Lebanon – The tensions that have recently flared up in southern Lebanon have been to ease, according to a senior UN official.
On July 22, Michael Williams, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, met with the Lebanese Foreign Minister, Fawzi Salloukh. After the meeting, Williams said that the situation is calming down. Williams has also met with Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri, and leaders from Hezbollah, in an effort to assuage concerns regarding UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 36-day war between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006.
“All… have assured me strongly that active efforts are under way to reduce the tension and restore stability to the area,” said Williams.
Since July 13, the town of Khirbet Silim in Southern Lebanon has been the center of unrest in the past week, when there was an explosion from an alleged Hezbollah arms cache in an abandoned building, reportedly injuring thirty people. As the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) investigated the blast on July 17, fourteen UN peacekeepers were injured as civilians threw rocks and damaged vehicles in protest of the investigation, alleging that UNIFIL had overstepped its operational mandate. On July 22, UNIFIL refused to respond to such allegations, but a spokesperson said UNIFIL was awaiting the official report on the incidents.
Special Coordinator Williams said that the July 17 incident was being investigated thoroughly by both UNIFIL and the Lebanese Armed Forces, “to avoid anything like this happening again.”
Southern Lebanon has been the hub of political instability in the country, with Syrian nationals, al-Qaeda agents, and Hezbollah militants all accused of stirring up hostility and attacking UN peacekeepers.
For more information, please see:
The Daily Star – UNIFIL Silent Over Reports of Breaching Mandate – 23 July 2009
UN News Center – Tensions in Southern Lebanon ‘Calming Down’ After Incidents– 22 July 2009
Al-Jazeera – Lebanon Army Arrests ‘Terror Cell’– 21 July 2009