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S Lebanon Force in Heavy Fire, Actions Impossible

As UN’s Force in South Lebanon Reports Heavy Fire, Annan Says Basic Actions Impossible

New York, Jul 24 2006 7:00PM

The United Nations force monitoring the line of withdrawal between Israel and Lebanon reported continued heavy firing today from both Hezbollah and Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), while Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the recent upsurge in violence had restricted the force from carrying out even basic activities.

“Hezbollah fired rockets from various locations, and the IDF continued the shelling and aerial bombardment,” the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) said in a press release, adding that one unarmed UN military observer had been wounded by small arms fire but was now in a stable condition after being treated in hospital.

UNIFIL said there had been more than nine incidents of firing close to UN positions over the past 24 hours but despite the difficulties it was able to carry out some humanitarian work, including evacuating several villagers from El Mari and distributing food aid.

However, the extent of the difficulties the mission has to contend with are highlighted today in Mr. Annan’s latest report on the Force, which covers the past six months, in which he notes that the start of the increased hostilities on 12 July “radically changed the context” in which UNIFIL operates.

“In the current environment, circumstances conducive to United Nations peacekeeping do not exist,” he notes, adding a situation exists “where the Force is restricted from carrying out even basic activities, such as the ability to resupply its positions and to conduct search and rescue operations on behalf of its personnel.”

UNIFIL’s mandate is due to expire at the end of this month and on 7 July Lebanon’s Government asked that it be extended for a further six months. But, given the worsening situation, Mr. Annan recommends that the Security Council extend it only for one month to give time for all “possible options” for south Lebanon to be worked out.

ENDS

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