BEIRUT — Caretaker Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib called Saturday on the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to coordinate with the Lebanese army prior to any patrols in southern Lebanon, "in view of [potential] tensions" with local residents.
In an interview with the pro-Syrian regime channel Al-Mayadeen, Bou Habib also claimed that Israel had "spies inside the United Nations," which he said would justify the apprehensions of South Lebanon residents about the peacekeepers' patrols.
"The Lebanese state does not want to prevent UNIFIL from patrolling in the South, but it must coordinate with the Lebanese Army, in view of the tensions that may arise with the inhabitants of the region," the minister said. "Israel has spies, not only inside the United Nations, but also among the Lebanese, Muslims and Christians. So the inhabitants have the right to be afraid."
"We don't have the means to follow UNIFIL on all its patrols. But we know the sensitivities of each village, so the Lebanese Army can tell it where it needs to be accompanied. That's all we're asking the Security Council to amend, so that UNIFIL has the right to move around, but in agreement with the Lebanese state," he added.
UNIFIL's mandate is renewed every year in August.
Incidents often occur between residents of southern Lebanon and peacekeepers. On Dec. 14, 2022, an Irish UNIFIL soldier was killed and three others wounded when their vehicle was attacked near the village of Aaqibiyah, where Hezbollah has a strong presence. Last June, a judicial source had told AFP, based on an indictment, that five Hezbollah members had been charged by the military court in this attack.
With regard to the land border with Israel, Bou Habib called on UNIFIL "to work on demarcating the border, which will give rise to an agreement between the two countries and ease tensions."