Following the repeated clashes in south Lebanon between the residents and the UN peacemakers, UNIFIL Commander Major General Alberto Asarta Cuevas was reported as saying: “The Lebanese authorities are obligated to provide UNIFIL with security and freedom of mobility within their areas of operation.”
The clash between French UNIFIL troops and residents of the southern towns of Toulin and Qebrikha resulted in the destruction of a civilian vehicle, the incapacitation of two French vehicles, and the light injury of one French soldier and Lebanese citizen Ali Salman.
Following the clash , a meeting took place in Toulin between army intelligence, Hezbollah, members of the French unit, and representatives of the southern residents in order to restore the stability.
UNIFIL military spokesman Colonel Narish Bhatt said that Saturday morning, a UNIFIL patrol, comprised of an armored military vehicle and another light one, was intercepted by a number of civilians some 50 meters north of Qebrikha where they pelted it with rocks.
He said in a statement that the patrol damaged a motorcycle as it exited the scene, upon which some 50 individuals surrounded the vehicles, slashed their tires, and attempted to size the units’ weapons, which prompted the soldiers to fire shots into the air.
The leader of the patrol then attempted to speak to the civilians, but he was attacked by the crowd, and stripped of his weapons, incurring an injury to his forehead.
Link to Iran sanctions
An-Nahar newspaper quoted an anonymous political source on Sunday as saying that this week’s protests against UNIFIL in South Lebanon are linked to recent events in international diplomacy. The source particularly identified last month’s UN Security Council resolution that imposed new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program as a trigger.
South Lebanon is a stronghold of the Iranian backed Hezbollah militants . One Arab observer was quoted as saying: ” Hezbollah is trying use the people in the south as barricades to deter the international sanctions on Iran.”
Following Saturday’s incident, Prime Minister Saad Hariri made urgent contacts with Speaker Nabih Berri and the Lebanese Army Command with the aim to restore stability to the tense areas in the south and allow UNIFIL forces to do their job in cooperation with the Lebanese Army, An-Nahar newspaper reported
Photo: Lebanese Defense minister Elias Murr ( L) with UNIFIL Commander Major General Alberto Asarta Cuevas.