Sunday, June 24, 2007

Sadly, we'll now find out if the UNIFIL commander is right

The operating environment for UNIFIL in southern Lebanon has become dramatically "non-permissive."

At least five Spanish UN peacekeepers were killed and three others wounded in an attack on a UNIFIL patrol in southern Lebanon on Sunday afternoon.

The incident took place near Al-Hijam, south of Marj Ayoun, on the eastern part of the border with Israel. UNIFIL forces were on route to the site of the attack to investigate.

A senior Lebanese official in Beirut said a mine may have caused the explosion. But another security official based in southern Lebanon said the explosion was caused by a bomb that was placed on the side of the main road where the UNIFIL APC was travelling.

The attack late Sunday afternoon was the first ever against UNIFIL forces in the region.

No organization claimed responsibility for the attack, but forces affiliated with al-Qaida were cited as the possible initiators of the attack, an analyst speaking on Israel Radio said moments after the explosion.

Previously, in an interview with the Jerusalem Post, the UNIFIL commander was quite confident about his command's effectiveness.

'In my area of operations there is no open hostile activity, and we also do not see a rearmament happening,' he said. 'We are physically patrolling every corner of southern Lebanon, and if there were a bunker [system], we would have found it'
- Maj.-Gen. Claudio Graziano

Forgive the pun in poor taste, but it looks like that assessment has been blown all to Hell. Forgive the silly pun, but Gen. Graziano has a rocky road ahead.

Gen. Graziano also told the Post that his soldiers are willing to put their lives on the line in the cause of peace.

As a testament to the way Graziano envisions his mission, perhaps, are his remarks that his men believe strongly enough in their mission of preventing hostilities in southern Lebanon that they are willing to sacrifice their lives on Israel's behalf.

"Our job is to defend peace, and it is a value-based job for soldiers," he explained. "There are people who will offer their lives for higher values like peace, security and stability."

Sadly, we will now find out whether his assessment of his troops' commitment is correct, or whether their home countries will pull them out to put their safety ahead of the peace, security and stability they are supposed to maintain.

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