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During an interview with New TV Hezbollah MP Ali al-Moqdad blamed UNIFIL for last week’s protests by the local resident and said that no-one wants to change the rules of engagement in South Lebanon.

“UNIFIL’s actions recently show that there are some hidden intentions to foment something with the residents just for the sake of changing the pattern or reality,” he said.

His comment comes against the backdrop of a series of public protests against UNIFIL, mainly French peacekeepers, in South Lebanon.

Moqdad added that the UN peacekeepers’ maneuvers, which triggered the public protests, were carried out without coordination with the Lebanese army.

“UNIFIL troops took many pictures of the houses and people, erected tents on every hill, set up new positions and installed surveillance cameras. Is this their work?” he asked.

The MP said that the behavior of some UNIFIL French soldiers raised questions, adding that the public protests against the peacekeeping force’s actions were spontaneous.

UN reaction

UN officials said the patrols by the UN Interim Force in Lebanon have been banned from several Shi’ite villages in the south. They said Shi’ites have been attacking UNIFIL patrols in what appeared to be organized by the Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah.

“Some of these may have been something spontaneous in the street, but some were clearly organized,” UN special coordinator for Lebanon, Michael Williams, said last weekend

On July 3, a UNIFIL patrol was attacked and overpowered by Shi’ites in the southern village of Kabrikha. Officials said the villagers, after one of them had been arrested, pelted UN troops and seized their weapons.

This marked at least the second attack on a UNIFIL patrol in less than a week. In both cases, the Lebanese Army, which eventually recovered the UNIFIL weapons, refused to intervene.

On June 29, Shi’ites attacked a UNIFIL vehicle between the villages of Adeisseh and Kfar Kila. The Shi’ites blocked a road and hurled stones toward a UN patrol during what officials termed a “maximum deployment exercise.” The exercise, meant to ensure troop readiness, was said to have ended on the following day.

“It is incumbent on the Lebanese authorities to ensure the security and freedom of movement for UNIFIL within its area of operation,” UNIFIL commander Maj. Gen. Alberto Asarta Cuevas said.

According to observers south Lebanon is Hezbollah’s stronghold and the militant group wanted to send a message through these protests that it is still in control.

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