NAQOURA, Lebanon: The commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, Maj. Gen. Paolo Serra, acknowledged the challenges to sustaining peace in south Lebanon during a ceremony Tuesday to mark the force’s 35th anniversary at the Naqoura headquarters.
Serra and Brig.-Gen. Ghassan Salem, representing the Lebanese Armed Forces commander, laid wreaths at the UNIFIL cenotaph to pay tribute to the 296 peacekeepers who have been killed in the line of duty since the force was created in 1978.
“The past seven years have been the calmest period southern Lebanon has seen in a long time,” Serra told the assembled guests.
Representatives from the Lebanese armed and security forces, local government and community leaders were in attendance, along with UNIFIL soldiers hailing from 38 counties.
“Against the background of regional instability and uncertainty, UNIFIL continues to be a force for stability, thanks to the great work of our military and civilian personnel, and the effective cooperation with our main strategic partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces,” Serra said.
Serra acknowledged the challenges facing south Lebanon, emphasizing that UNIFIL has so far been successful in implementing its mandate and maintaining the cessation of hostilities between the Israeli and Lebanese sides.
“In the period ahead UNIFIL will redouble its efforts in assisting the parties to solidify the cessation of hostilities and respect for Resolution 1701, working closely with the LAF, the government of Lebanon and Lebanese Institution toward our common objectives in southern Lebanon,” he said.
UNIFIL was created by U.N. Security Council resolutions to confirm Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, restore international peace and security and assist the Lebanese government in restoring its authority over the area. Following the 2006 War with Israel, the Council significantly enhanced UNIFIL’s mandate and assigned it additional tasks working closely with the LAF in southern Lebanon.
Today, UNIFIL comprises almost 12,000 troops and is supported by over 1,000 civilian national and international staff, including about 800 naval personnel of the UNIFIL Maritime Task Force deployed along the Lebanese coast.