UNIFIL Admits to “Making Mistakes,” Denial of Attempts to Change Rules of Engagement

UNIFIL Admits to “Making Mistakes,” Denial of Attempts to Change Rules of Engagement

The U.N. and Hizbullah have agreed to try to ease tensions after a week of trouble in the south that saw an explosion at a weapons depot, a border crossing into Israeli-held territory and a clash between the Shiite group”s supporters and peacekeepers.

U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams said he had a "frank" discussion Tuesday with the head of Hizbullah”s liaison office, Wafiq Safa, about ways to calm the situation in the south. Williams also said he will travel to Israel later in the week to confer with officials there about the incidents.

Israel complained to the U.N. about the Saturday clash in Khirbet Selm, the explosion there and an incursion by Lebanese civilians into a post in Kfarshouba that Israel recently erected as peacekeepers watched.

The attempted search by UNIFIL on Saturday which sparked the stone-throwing clash has led to concerns that it may be a prelude to changing the rules of engagement of the U.N. force, a move which would put it in direct confrontation with Hizbullah.

However, official Lebanese sources told pan-Arab daily al-Hayat in remarks published Wednesday that there is no tendency, in particularly by European countries that have contributed troops to UNIFIL, to change the rules of engagement.

An Nahar daily quoted official sources as saying President Michel Suleiman has insisted on: Keenness on UNIFIL and coordination between it and the army, rejection of attempts to change the rules of engagement and facing Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty and guaranteeing the Jewish state”s unconditional withdrawal from Shebaa farms, Kfarshouba hills and the northern part of the border village of Ghajar.

A statement by Hizbullah after the meeting with Williams on Tuesday stressed that UNIFIL must abide by the rules of engagement that do "not allow those forces to carry out any raids of houses."

The statement said there was agreement to "strengthen coordination" meetings with UNIFIL units in southern Lebanon "to guarantee the restoration of the atmosphere of confidence between it and the population."

As Safir said the UNIFIL command has admitted that it "made a mistake” in trying to raid a house in Khirbet Selm in violation of the rules of engagement and without coordination with the army.

After meeting with Speaker Nabih Berri Williams also said the U.N. has requested all sides to recommit to the terms of Security Council resolution 1701.

"Noting the sensitivity of the situation, we agreed that all sides should refrain from any provocative actions," he said.


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