Implementation of SCR 1701

On 11 August 2006, Security Council resolution 1701 aimed at ending the conflict between Israel and Hizbullah in Lebanon. 

Below is the UN secretary general's third report on implementation of the resolution, issued in March 2007.

I. Introduction

1. The present report is submitted in response to the request of the Security Council, in its Statement by the President of 12 December 2006 (S/PRST/2006/52), “to report on a quarterly basis on the implementation of resolution 1701 (2006), notably on further progress made towards the achievement of a permanent ceasefire and a long-term solution” This is the third report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of Security Council resolution 1701(2006). It follows the letter of 1 December 2006, which was a factual update on the implementation of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006) (S/2006/270), in particular on UNIFIL’s operations and other relevant UN activities. The present report provides a comprehensive assessment of the steps taken to implement resolution 1701 (2006),

2. I am pleased to report that the overall commitment by the Governments of Israel and Lebanon to Security Council resolution 1701 (2006) remains strong. I am also encouraged by the major strategic changes that have occurred in the area south of the Litani River, including the near full deployment of a strengthened UNIFIL together with the deployment of the Lebanese Army as well as the absence of any positions other than that or the LAF and UNIFIL along the Blue Line, However, this report is submitted against the background of an acute and continuing political crisis in Lebanon and mounting Israeli concerns about the unauthorized transfer of arms across the Lebanese- Syrian border. I am also concerned that there has not been greater progress on key issues, which are vital to the achievement of a permanent ceasefire and a long-term solution, such as the Israeli captured soldiers and the Lebanese prisoners, the Shab’a Farms and the halting of Israeli overflights. I am also distressed by the continuing dangers posed to Lebanese citizens in the south of Lebanon due to the use of cluster bombs by the Israeli [military] during the 2006 conflict.

II. Implementation of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006)  

A. Respect for the Blue Line

3. Since the letter to the President of the Security Council, dated 1 December 2006, the military and security situation in the UNIFIL area of operations has been generally stable. However, the cessation of hostilities was breached by a serious incident that occurred along the Blue Line on 7 February 2007.

4. On 7 February, the [Israeli military] informed UNIFIL of its intention to cross the Israeli technical fence that night, near the Lebanese village of Maroun Al-Ras, to clear a number of suspected mines identified north of the fence on Israeli territory. The LAF conveyed through UNIFIL that, should the [Israeli military] cross the technical fence during the night, it would be difficult to ensure that no violation of the Blue Line occurred. The LAF stressed that it would not accept the planned [Israeli military] night-time operation and would open fire should this occur. Rather, it proposed the action be suspended until the following day. The UNIFIL Force Commander urged restraint and emphasized to the LAF that this action would constitute a breach of the cessation of hostilities and a violation of resolution 1701 (2006). While acknowledging Israel’s security concerns, the Force Commander also urged the [Israeli military] to suspend its action and to resolve the matter by relaying its concerns through UNIFIL’s liaison channels and the holding of an urgent tripartite meeting. In the meantime, UNIFIL deployed two platoons to the area to establish a buffer zone between the LAF and the [Israeli military], and later increased its strength to a company of mechanized infantry, reinforced by a tank platoon and supported by artillery, with another mechanized infantry company in reserve close by.

5. Despite the Force Commander’s appeals, the [Israeli military] proceeded with the operation during the night. The LAF at first fired warning shots after the [Israeli military] made an opening in the fence, and then intensified fire, breaching the cessation of hostilities agreement, towards the [Israeli military] bulldozer, which had passed through the fence but was still on the Israeli side of the Blue Line. The [Israeli military] responded by firing a round. While the UNIFIL Force Commander, through his contacts with the parties, was able to negotiate a ceasefire, subsequently the [Israeli military] bulldozer and accompanying excavator violated the Blue Line when carrying out earthworks to clear the suspected mines.

6. The Force Commander convened a tripartite meeting with senior representatives of the [Israeli military] and LAF on 12 February and presented them with UNIFIL’s report of the incident. The report’s findings concluded that both parties had violated resolution 1701 (2006) through their actions that night. He recommended that the Blue Line be visibly marked in sensitive areas, that the agreed coordination and liaison arrangements be brought into force, and called on the parties to make use of the tripartite coordination mechanism in order to avoid similar incidents in the future.

7. This serious violation of resolution 1701 (2006) came only two days after the [Israeli military] had taken unilateral action to destroy other suspected improvised explosive devices detected near the Blue Line at the same location. On this occasion, the [Israeli military] informed UNIFIL of the devices but, before UNIFIL and LAF patrols could arrive at the scene, opened fire, detonating one and causing two others to burn out. Subsequently, a UNIFIL team established that the devices were located some meters north of the Blue Line and that [Israeli military] rounds had therefore violated the line and impacted inside Lebanese territory. As a result of this action, evidence was destroyed and it was not possible to determine if these devices were new.

8. Subsequent to the two incidents described above, UNIFIL has reported an increased level of tension along the Blue Line. There have been several reports that [Israeli military] and LAF soldiers on either side of the line have aimed weapons at each other in the area of Fatima Gate. Most recently, on 2 March, a Lebanese youth approached the Blue Line next to UN position 8-33, and despite warnings from UNIFIL, started digging in the ground on the Lebanese side adjacent to the Blue Line. After warning the boy several times, the [Israeli military] fired one warning shot and forced the boy at gunpoint to cross the Blue Line into Israel, in violation of resolution 1701 (2006), where he was taken into custody. He was released to UNIFIL personnel later in the day.

9. I am concerned by all violations of the Blue Line, which also constitute violations of resolution 1701 (2006). Throughout the period under review, UNIFIL continued to report Israeli air violations of the Blue Line, through [Israeli military] jet and unmanned aerial vehicle over-flights. The incursions into Lebanese airspace continue on an almost daily basis. UNIFIL reported a significant increase in Israeli air violations during the month of February and the beginning of March, which on some days exceeded ten Israeli over-flights in its area of operations. The Government of Lebanon continues to protest the over-flights as a serious violation of Lebanese sovereignty and a violation of resolution 1701 (2006), while the Government of Israel continues to maintain that the over-flights are a necessary security measure that will continue until the two abducted Israeli soldiers are released and respect for the full arms embargo, established in paragraphs 14 and 15 of resolution 1701 (2006), is implemented. On 21 February, UNIFIL reported ten Israeli over-flights in its area of operations. On the same day the LAF opened anti-aircraft fire near Tyre.

10. UNIFIL also reported, on a number of occasions hunters, with rifles as well as a number of minor ground violations of the Blue Line from the Lebanese side, mainly by local shepherds. I would remind the parties that any crossing of the Blue Line, whether planned or inadvertent, endangers the fragile calm that prevails in southern Lebanon.

11. I am pleased to report that both parties have now agreed to UNIFIL’s proposal to visibly mark the Blue Line in sensitive areas, particularly in locations where there is a significant distance between the line and the Israeli technical fence. UNIFIL is engaged with the LAF and [Israeli military] to initiate the process of erecting markers at selected points, in close coordination with both parties, in order to prevent inadvertent violations. Regular LAF patrols along the Blue Line have also contributed to providing better security and preventing violations by civilians on a number of occasions. The LAF has also enhanced control of Lebanese territorial waters south of Naqoura to prevent violations of the buoy-line by local fishermen.  

B. Security arrangements

12. The [Israeli military] continue to maintain a presence north of the Blue Line inside Lebanese territory, through its control of the northern part of Ghajar village. UNIFIL has been engaged with the [Israeli military] and LAF in order to finalize temporary security arrangements for northern Ghajar. which would facilitate [Israeli military] withdrawal from this area. While the arrangements have been approved by the Government of Israel, the government of Lebanon has suggested an amendment to the text, which is under consideration.

13. There have been no significant changes in LAF deployment within the UNIFIL area of operations since the 1 December letter to the President of the Security Council. There are three LAF brigades (two light infantry and one heavy infantry) deployed along the Blue Line, and another brigade in the area of Tyre. The LAF maintain a total of 142 positions in the UNIFIL area of operations, of which 45 are along the Blue Line. 114 of the LAF positions are checkpoints. “On 5 December 2006, UNIFIL patrol came across a significant number of mortar shells and rockets in the general area of Kafer Chouba and informed the LAF. The following day, a UNIFIL patrol revisited the area and discovered five, apparently newly laid, booby trapped or mined obstacles in the same location. UNIFIL dismantled the obstacles and the LAF confiscated the ammunition.”

14. UNIFIL continues to assist the LAF in ensuring that the area between the Blue Line and the Litani River is free of any armed personnel, assets or weapons other than those of the LAF and UNIFIL. The Mission received no reports of unauthorized armed personnel in the area during the period under review, except for local hunters and Palestinian armed elements, which are largely confined to the refugee camps. On a number of occasions, however, UNIFIL came across abandoned unauthorized arms, ammunition or related material in its area of operations south of the Litani River, On all such occasions UNIFIL informed the LAF, which took action to confiscate or to destroy the material. The LAF and UNIFIL carried out coordinated operations in the Kafr Shuba area and in Wadi Zibquin with the aim of locating and clearing unauthorized arms, ammunition and mines. The LAF continue to monitor and control entry points into the area between the Litani River and the Blue Line though permanent checkpoints and patrols. Joint LAF/UNIFIL efforts have not detected illegal transfers of arms to the area south of the Litani River.

15. However, in public pronouncements, Hizbollah has claimed that it is strengthening its capacity and rebuilding its armed presence. On 16 February 2007, the organization’s Secretary General, Sayyed Nasrallah, declared that Hizbollah fighters are present in southern Lebanon, although UNIFIL has no evidence of the presence of Hizbollah armed elements south of the Litani river. He further claimed that not only does Hizbollah have plenty of weapons; it also has the right to transport its arms within the country in order to combat Israel. On a number of occasions, Hizbollah also publicly criticized the Lebanese authorities for seizing a truckload of its rockets, rocket launchers and mortars on 8 February on the outskirts of Beirut, and demanded that the Lebanese army hand back the weapons, which it described as “arms of the resistance”. These statements are an open admission of activities that constitute a direct violation of relevant provisions of resolution 1701 (2006), which were accepted by Hizbollah last year. 16. During the current reporting period, the UNIFIL Maritime Task Force (MTF) hailed and confirmed the identity of over 2,000 ships, bringing the total number to over 3,000 since the MTF was established. It detected ten suspicious vessels, which were inspected by Lebanese naval or customs officials on arrival in port. No illegal arms were discovered. The MTF also assisted two vessels in distress, and participated in search and rescue operations that saved the lives of eighteen seamen. Effective procedures have been put in place between the MTF and the Lebanese Navy regarding access to Lebanese territorial waters, conduct of boarding and inspections, communications, and reporting procedures.

17. UNIFIL’s liaison and coordination mechanism with both the LAF and the [Israeli military] has been generally effective in addressing all military and security issues. The Force Commander holds regular tripartite meetings with senior representatives of both parties. As witnessed following the incident of 7 February, this forum has become instrumental in addressing critical security matters and is now a key element in Mission efforts to foster stability in southern Lebanon.

18. The LAF, which are estimated to number some 55,000 military personnel in total, have a significant number of essential tasks to carry out, according to resolution 1701(2006), including to maintain peace and security in southern Lebanon in cooperation with UNIFIL, and to help secure the country’s land and maritime borders. However, the country’s ongoing political crisis has also required the LAF to deploy in Beirut, as well as other areas of the country, in order to ensure internal security. These additional tasks have put considerable strain on the LAF, whose entire army corps is currently deployed, and have sometimes limited its ability to carry out its tasks under resolution 1701 (2006).

19. It has become clear in recent weeks that the LAF is facing considerable capacity problems, which have impacted upon its ability to respond quickly to some of UNIFIL’s requests, including coordinated search operations. UNIFIL has received a number of requests for equipment from the LAF, including, for example, night vision goggles, which the Mission is not currently able to provide. Both Government of Lebanon representatives and the United Nations have been approaching potential donors on this issue. I note that several interested partners have already made some contributions and I would urge others to come forward and assist the LAF carrying out their obligations under resolution 1701 (2006).

20. While acknowledging the LAF’s problems of capacity, I have also noted that there have been some recent occasions when LAF units have shown a certain reluctance to respond to requests from UNIFIL, including when conducting some coordinated search operations. In each of these cases, however, UNIFIL and the LAF were able to agree on a tactical approach that allowed joint operations to go forward. The Prime Minister, the Minister of Defense and the LAF Commander has reassured UNIFIL’s Force Commander that his forces are determined to work closely with UNIFIL, and, given the good cooperation that the Mission has received since 2006, I am confident that the LAF is committed to carrying out its obligations under resolution 1701 (2006).

21. I should also note that there have been a number of incidents when UNIFIL patrols have faced stone throwing, mainly by local youths. The LAF has taken action to prevent these isolated incidents and in some cases detained the perpetrators. Municipal authorities in a small number of towns and villages raised concerns about some UNIFIL activities in their areas, in particular patrolling with heavy vehicles. However, in general, local authorities and residents have been well disposed to the Mission, which itself understands the need to ensure that it carries out its mandated tasks with sensitivity and minimum disruption to the local community. I welcome the public statements that leaders from all political factions have made promoting good relations between the local residents and UNIFIL.

22. While coordination and liaison between UNIFIL and the [Israeli military] has been generally good, the UNIFIL Force Commander was unable to establish direct contact with senior [Israeli military] representatives for much of the time during the Blue Line incidents in February 2007, contravening agreed arrangements. It is of critical importance that the [Israeli military] ensure that an officer, of appropriate rank and authority, can be contacted at all times by UNIFIL’s Force Commander, so that any future incidents that may arise along the Blue Line could be quickly resolved before they are allowed to escalate.  

C. Disarming armed groups

23. Given the considerable military presence of the LAF and the United Nations force south of the Litani River, senior commanders of both forces believe it would be very difficult for unauthorized armed personnel to establish any new military capacity in that area, At the same time, unarmed personnel, suspected of being affiliated to Hizbollah, have been observed monitoring UNIFIL’s activities at various points throughout its area of operations, at times taking photographs and filming.

24. There have, however, been a number of reports of activities conducted by armed elements north of the Litani River, outside UNIFIL’s area of operations. These reports have not been denied by either the Lebanese Government or Hizbollah. Armed elements, suspected of being members of Hizbollah, have been observed constructing new facilities in the Bourrhoz region, just north of the Litani River. Concerning activities that take place outside of UNIFIL’s area of operations, it should be noted that the Lebanese authorities and the LAF have primary responsibility for preventing any hostile or armed action being launched from within Lebanese territory.

25. However, the stated position of the LAF Commander is that his forces apply the same rules in adjacent areas north of the Litani River as for the area to its south, and that they would prevent any armed actions from being carried out by unauthorized armed elements in either region.

26. I will provide a further update on the status of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias in my fifth semi-annual report on the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559 (2004) due in April 2007. It should be noted that in reference to paragraph 10 of resolution 1701 (2006) and the issue of disarmament, I have already proposed in my report of 12 September 2006 (5/2006/730) on the implementation of resolution 1701 (2006) “that the disarming of Hizbollah and other militia should take place through a political process that will lead to the full authority of the Government of Lebanon so that there will be no weapons or authority than its own.” I still await the Government of Lebanon, further to its decision to adopt the seven-point plan, to define such a political process.

D. Arms embargo

27. Over the last few weeks the Government of Israel has provided a series of detailed intelligence briefings to senior UN representatives, which indicate serious breaches of the arms embargo across the Lebanese-Syrian border. The briefings included a specific example of a reported arms shipment to Hizbollah in early January across the Lebanese-Syrian border. The date, exact times and names of places in which this reported incident took place were shared with UN officials.

28. Israel claims that there had been hundreds of such shipments, including short and longer range rockets, anti-tank and anti aircraft defense systems, which had crossed the Lebanese-Syrian border since the end of the 2006 conflict.

29. With regard to Israeli charges of smuggling of weapons across the Lebanese- Syrian border, Lebanese authorities have requested that evidence be provided to allow experts to assess the veracity of the allegations. Some senior Lebanese officials have denied the Israeli allegations.

30. While the Lebanese authorities workplan to control all of Lebanon’s borders acknowledges that a lot remains to be done in strengthening their border control capacity and modernizing their current systems, they also point at the progress that has already been achieved in this regard and plans and projects underway to further improve this capacity. A joint security committee, headed by the Director-General of General Security, and comprising of the LAF, Customs Authorities, Internal Security and General Security has been established to monitor and control all Lebanese international borders, liaise with international partners providing assistance and implement applicable laws and regulations.

31. The Syrian Arab Republic has indicated, most recently in the letter of its Permanent Representative dated 1 March, that it has taken all measures required on its borders to prevent smuggling between its territory and Lebanon. Its Permanent Representative has also informed senior UN representatives that since the commitment to deploy an additional battalion and other measures made by President Assad to the Secretary-General in September 2006, Syria has doubled its border guards and increased its patrolling along its border with Lebanon. Syria also maintains that Israel is sending weapons to some Lebanese groups, in order to affect the situation in Lebanon negatively. However, it has not provided any evidence in support of this allegation.

32. Further to the request contained in the Statement of the President of the Security Council dated 12 December 2006 (S/PRST/2006/52) inviting me to pursue further technical and independent assessment of the situation along the Lebanon-Syria border, a team of border police experts made a second visit to Lebanon late in the reporting period. The United Nations team sought feedback from relevant Lebanese authorities on the report provided to the Government concerning the findings of the first assessment mission, and to evaluate progress made since the visit took place in September 2006.

33. The team was encouraged by the commitment of representatives of the relevant border security agencies to fully implement its findings. There has been some effort to improve cooperation and coordination between headquarters and field levels in all four agencies concerned. However, the lack of critical equipment and basic training for customs and other officials continues to hamper serious efforts to properly secure Lebanon’s land border with Syria. On the maritime border, a recent donation of ten small patrol boats from the United Arab Emirates should also be welcomed. While they will not alone provide sufficient ability to fully monitor and patrol Lebanon’s territorial waters, the boats do provide important new capacity to the Lebanese Navy once they are fully operational.

34. The Lebanese authorities informed the team that they accepted the report’s findings, as to equipment, methods, capacity and training. The next phase is for the border security agencies to fully implement the enhancements, while seeking the necessary bilateral assistance. Bilateral assistance to the Lebanese Government to help enhance these capabilities will continue to be critical. In this connection, I welcome and am encouraged by the work of a team from Germany that has been working closely with relevant Lebanese officials to launch a pilot project on the northern part of the Lebanon- Syria border, as well as devising training programs and delivering equipment I would like to thank the Governments of Germany, the United Arab Emirates and other donor countries for their ongoing crucial assistance in this regard.

35. The team has suggested another follow-up mission in four to six months to allow the Government adequate time to implement the improvements.

E. Land mines and cluster bombs

36. The extent of contamination from unexploded ordnance (UXO), namely from cluster bomblets and sub-munitions, has become clearer since the last letter to the President of the Security Council. The UN Mine Action Coordination Center, in conjunction with the Lebanese National Demining Office has identified an additional 32 individual cluster strike locations. As of 27 February 2007, a total of 854 cluster bomblet strike locations have been recorded. This contamination covers more than 34 million square meters, some of which had been cleared from mines and UXO prior to the 2006 conflict.

37. Each strike location contains hundreds of individual bomblets or sub-munitions. As of 22 February, the humanitarian impact of these explosive remnants of war on civilians had resulted in 22 deaths and 159 injuries. During the last two months, UNIFIL battalions experienced five accidents in which four BELUBATT and one CHINBATT explosive ordnance device team members were injured in a series of unfortunate demining and cluster bomb incidents.

38. While the numbers above remain alarming, there has been a decrease in the number of victims per day. This can be attributed to the joint effort of the LAF, UNIFIL, UN contracted and bilaterally funded clearance capacities. By 25 January 2007, approximately 10% of the contaminated area had been cleared, through the location and destruction of 103,010 unexploded cluster munitions. In addition to cluster munitions,  unexploded bombs, rockets, mortars and other ordnance also litter the south and areas to the north and east of Lebanon.

39. Despite repeated United Nations efforts to receive detailed information from the [Israeli military] regarding the exact location, quantity and type of cluster munitions utilized during the conflict, I regret that Israel has not yet provided UNIFIL with this data. While I acknowledge receipt of Israel’s maps of mines laid until the [Israeli military] withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, I reiterate my request, as contained in my previous reports, for Israel to provide detailed data on its use of cluster munitions to the United Nations as soon as possible.  

F. Captured soldiers and prisoners

40. The return of the two Israeli soldiers abducted by Hizbollah on 12 July 2006, as well as a solution of the question of Lebanese citizens detained in Israel, has been the subject of further intense efforts spent by the facilitator appointed by my predecessor to handle this issue.

41. Hizbollah publicly rejected the concept of an immediate and unconditional release of the two Israeli soldiers at an early stage insisting instead on major releases of detainees in Israel beyond the framework of resolution 1701 (2006). This lead also to prohibitive demands concerning a proof of life for the two Israeli soldiers.

42. On the Israeli side, I note that Lebanese citizens captured by the [Israeli military] in last summer’s conflict have all been granted ICRC access and the ability to write letters to their families. I note also the readiness to solve the very few Lebanese cases, on condition that Hizbollah honors its obligations.

43. More recently a conceptual framework has been developed which should lead the way to an agreement on an exchange of information and several gestures of humanitarian relevance. Against that background, I hope Hizbollah will allow the Facilitator to see the two abducted Israeli soldiers very soon.

44. During his contacts with Hizbollah, the Facilitator has been emphasizing my firm expectation that a solution for the two soldiers’ release be found soon, based on strict restraint in demands, moderation and compassion with the victims of the recent conflict. Not least in view of Lebanon’s international standing, I have urged Hizbollah’s leadership to avoid disproportionate demands and protracted bargaining which cannot be considered adequate in face of the humanitarian urgency of the cases and the clear message of resolution 1701 (2006).

45. I will immediately inform the Security Council in the light of any major developments on this issue.

G. Delineation of borders

46. A permanent solution of this issue remains contingent upon the delineation of the border between the Syrian Arab Republic and Lebanon, in fulfillment of resolutions 1559 (2004), 1680 (2006) and 1701 (2006). In this regard, the Secretary-General has previously noted the repeated statements of representatives of the Syrian Arab Republic made over the past year that the Shab’a Farms area is Lebanese. These statements constitute a new legal reality as the Secretary-General’s third and fourth semi-annual reports on the implementation of resolution 1559 (2004) outlined in more detail. At the same time, I note in particular the alternative path suggested by the Government of Lebanon in its Seven Point Plan, namely placing the Shab’a Farms under UN jurisdiction until a permanent border delineation and Lebanese sovereignty over them is settled.

47. Last December, I noted in my letter to the President of the Council that a senior cartographer has been engaged to examine the geographical definition of the Sheb’a Farms area. During the past months the cartographer has been reviewing all available material.

48. Lebanon has submitted a comprehensive collection of papers in support of her claim to the Shab’a Farms area, which includes over 150 records of property deeds, cadastral maps of two villages, a general administrative map, and a map on which the “proposed state limit” is depicted. Summary assessments included with the papers cover a period from the end of the Ottoman rule up to the situation at present. They cite decrees, settlements of land-use disputes, legal opinions, and the workings of joint Lebanese-Syrian boundary committees. Furthermore, they also take account of documents and sketch maps recently found in the diplomatic archives located at Nantes, France, which attest to the long history of the Lebanese identity of the Shab’a Farms. Lebanon’s contention is of course that the 1920 intra-mandate line, which defined the boundary between Lebanon and Syria in this region, was drawn with scant knowledge of the geographical realities, and unfortunately this has been perpetuated for the past eighty years.

49. In our attempts to define the Shab’a Farms area, I should note here that many of these documents, including the above mentioned diplomatic correspondence, were not previously available.

50. The cartographer is in the process of classifying and analyzing the documentation. He is verifying and recompiling those facts that may be deemed as evidence of a boundary in the Shab’a Farms area. While good progress has been made, some papers are still to be translated. Also, further amplification was requested from Lebanon, and a similar call for any relevant material was submitted to the Syrian Arab Republic. I also look forward to cooperation with Israel.

III. Deployment of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon

51. In response to the Security Council’s decision in resolution 1701(2006) to supplement and enhance the numbers, equipment, mandate and scope of operations of UNIFIL, the Mission continued its phased deployment during the reporting period. With the second phase of deployment now complete, as of 20 February, the total number of military personnel has reached 12,431, from 29 contributing countries. A current total of 10,479 ground troops operate within two established sectors: Sector West, based in Tibnin; and Sector East, based in Marjayoun. The total UNIFIL naval personnel now numbers 1,772. It is with regret that I must report that on 7 March, a UNIFIL APC carrying four Belgian soldiers had an accident in the Kafer Hammam area. Two of the peacekeepers died immediately and a third one died later in hospital. The fourth sustained serious injuries and has been repatriated.

52. The Mission continues to recruit civilian staff. As of 8 February, staff strength totaled 473 (163 international and 310 national staff), out of an authorized strength of 1,078 staff (390 international and 688 national staff). The increased staff strength is reflected across all Mission civilian functions, particularly in the critical area of mission support.

53. The office of Political Affairs, which now comprises Civil Affairs, Public information, and an office for joint planning and coordination, has also been augmented during the period under review. Civil Affairs teams have been deployed in both UNIFIL’s sectors - the Sector East team co-located with the Civil Military Cooperation (CIMIC) cell in Marjayoun, while the Sector West team currently operates from UNIFIL headquarters in Naqoura. Civil Affairs is working closely with the Mission’s CIMIC cells and activities focus on relations with local communities and confidence-building efforts. The military Public Information cell is now fully integrated with the Public Information office, and the office for joint planning and coordination with the LAF, the Ministry of Defense and other relevant authorities, is now fully operational in Beirut. At the same time, a number of UNIFIL staff officers arc also based with the [Israeli military] at Northern Command headquarters, and the Mission is seeking agreement with the Government of Israel to establish a small office in Tel Aviv.

54. On 2 February 2007, Major-General Claudio Graziano (Italy) took over the command of UNIFIL from Major-General Alain Pellegrini (France). I would like to commend General Pellegrini for his outstanding contribution to the work of UNIFIL, and especially for his exemplary performance during the hostilities of summer 2006 and his subsequent role in overseeing the recent augmentation of the Mission.

IV. Observations

55. I note and welcome the continued commitment by the governments of both Israel and Lebanon to the implementation of resolution 1701. I also note the commitment of the Syrian Arab Republic to the implementation of 1701 (2006) as stated in its identical letters to me and the President of the Security Council dated 1 March 2007.

56. In Israel, there is growing criticism that the resolution has not addressed the issues of most concern to Israelis such as the return of its captured soldiers and reported arms movements to and within Lebanon. I would urge the Government of Israel to continue to work to implement all aspects of the resolution, without selectivity. I call on the Government of Israel, once again, to review its policy of over-flights through Lebanese airspace, which are a continuing violation of resolution 1701 (2006), and most urgently to provide the United Nations with all information on cluster munitions fired during the 2006 conflict.

57. The Prime Minister o Lebanon has expressed his country’s frustration with the continuing Israeli over-flights, the rising civilian toll caused by Israeli cluster bombs and slow progress on the issue of the Shab’a Farms. In Lebanon, I welcome the support to UNIFIL and to resolution 1701 that has been expressed publicly by all Lebanese parties. However, the persistent political crisis in the country is now overshadowing implementation of resolution 1701 (2006). I call on all Lebanese parties to recommit to the principles of the seven-point plan of the Government of Lebanon. An understanding, that incorporates the principles of no rearmament of unauthorized groups, and no movement of arms other than through the consent of the LAF, should also be encouraged, especially in the current volatile security environment in the country. Such an understanding would show a broad-based Lebanese determination to both the letter and spirit of resolution 1701 (2006).

58. The LAF have made significant and commendable strides toward fulfilling its obligations under resolution 1701 (2006), and I have been strongly encouraged by the cooperation and assistance provided by the LAF’s top leadership. In this connection, and recognizing that the armed forces face considerable problems of capacity and shortages of manpower and equipment, I call on the international community to provide relevant, timely and necessary bilateral assistance to the Government of Lebanon, to support the LAF working with UNIFIL to carry out its mandated tasks. I should note, in this regard, that the LAF is the peacekeeping partner of UNIFIL, and the success of UNIFIL is tied to the capacities and capabilities of the LAF.

59. While the Government of Lebanon and its armed forces have provided crucial support to UNIFIL, and the Government of Israel and its armed forces have helped to facilitate UNIFIL’s new mandated tasks, both parties can do more to ensure the successful implementation of this aspect of resolution 1701 (2006). I urge both parties to commit themselves fully to furthering close liaison and coordination arrangements with UNIFIL, especially through fill participation and information-sharing at tripartite meetings.

60. I welcome the efforts made by the Government of Lebanon to extend its authority over its territory through its own legitimate armed forces, and encourage the LAF to continue to provide full and timely assistance to UNIFIL. In order to facilitate the swift withdrawal of remaining [Israeli military] personnel from Lebanese territory, I call on both parties to approve the temporary security arrangements for northern Ghajar.

61. The incidents which occurred along the Blue Line in early February were regrettable and could have been avoided. In the atmosphere of fragile peace that exists today, both parties have a responsibility to avoid provocative actions likely to escalate tensions along the Blue Line. In the same manner, I am concerned by the reported activities of unauthorized armed elements outside of UNIFIL’s area of operations. I recall that the successful implementation of resolution 1701(2006) depends upon honoring the full implementation of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, and of resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006) that require the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon.

62. The information provided by [Israeli military] sources to senior UN representatives on alleged breaches of the arms embargo across the Lebanese-Syrian border was more detailed than that previously shown to the United Nations. While the information was substantial, its authentication would require independent military assessment.

63. Confidence building measures that would strengthen the Lebanese-Syrian border regime are highly recommended and urgently needed. The on-going work of the bilateral assistance provided by the Federal Government of Germany is a welcome step in providing assistance to the Government of Lebanon to enhance its border security capacities. Technical assistance, training and equipment to improve Lebanese border security, other than that provided by Germany, has been slow to arrive.

64. I am encouraged that Lebanese authorities continue to commit themselves to full cooperation with the United Nations’ team of border police experts, as well as to bilateral assistance programs. It will clearly take some time for this initiative to progress. I call upon Members States and relevant regional organizations to redouble their efforts in support of the Government of Lebanon in this regard. In considering further steps to ensure the full implementation of paragraph 15 of resolution 1701 (2006), including the arms embargo, the Security Council may wish to consider supporting an independent assessment mission to consider the monitoring of the border.

65. I would also strongly urge all Member States, in particular Syria, other regional states and Iran to do all they can to ensure the provisions of resolution 1701 (2006) are fully respected. In this regard, I have noted the measures, in August 2006, which the Syrian Arab Republic committed to taking on its side of the border with Lebanon and further measures it has informed me about.

66. The Shab’a Farms remains a key issue in the implementation of resolution 1701. There is no alternative but to move forward on this issue, albeit with due diligence. The full cooperation of Lebanon, Syria and Israel in particular is required in assisting the senior cartographer to review relevant material and develop an accurate territorial definition of the Shab’a Farms area. I am pleased by the good progress that has been made by the senior cartographer and intend to report more fully in the next report on the implementation of resolution 1701 (2006) due in mid June when I expect the technical work to be completed. In the meantime, I wish to reiterate the urgent call on the Syrian Arab Republic and Lebanon to undertake the necessary steps to delineate their common border, in fulfillment of resolutions 1559 (2004), 1680 (2006) and 1701 (2006). 

67. I am concerned by a growing threat from extremist Islamist groups, who have reportedly found safe haven in Palestinian refugee camps, to the presence of the United Nations in Lebanon. This presence in Palestinian camps has been reportedly strengthened in the period under review. In order to meet this threat, assistance to the LAF and other relevant security forces is urgently required. 68. We need to be fully aware that challenging work remains ahead of us towards the implementation of 1701. Both parties could do more to further the implementation of resolution 1701 (2006). Maintaining the momentum is the responsibility of the Lebanese, the Government of Israel, regional countries as well other Member States. Absent progress on core issues such as the prisoners, Shab’a Farms, halting Israeli over-flights and respect for the aims embargo, progress on 1701 could be severely tested in the months to come.