This is Tyre,

a seaside port in south Lebanon, in 2018.

40 years ago

in 1978, it looked very different.

Each period of stability this region has achieved has been hard won by the communities living here.

Since 1978 the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has been in southern Lebanon too, living alongside and working with the residents of the towns and villages south of the Litani River.

The story of UNIFIL is woven into the story of this beautiful region.


UN Security Council Resolutions 425 and 426 adopted

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was set up by the UN Security Council on 19 March 1978, following the Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon. By adopting resolutions 425 and 426, the 15-member Council also mandated UNIFIL to:

1. Confirm the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon.

2. Restore international peace and security.

3. Assist the Government of Lebanon in ensuring the return of its effective authority in the area.

Four days after the UN resolution, hundreds of UNIFIL peacekeepers arrived.

From the outset the UNIFIL military and civilian peacekeepers serving in south Lebanon formed close ties with the residents of the south.

Although not a humanitarian or development agency, UNIFIL contingents routinely provide free medical, dental, veterinary and other assistance to the local population.

UNIFIL has been, and continues to be, mandated to extend its assistance to help ensure humanitarian access to civilian populations and the voluntary and safe return of displaced residents. The mission must protect civilians and ensure the security and freedom of movement of humanitarian workers.

2006 – An enhanced mandate

UN Security Council Resolution 1701

On 12 July 2006, a bloody war broke out between Israel and Hizbullah. It lasted 34 days.

On 11 August 2006, the Security Council adopted resolution 1701 ending the five-week-long armed conflict. Through this resolution the Council enhanced UNIFIL’s mandate and increased the number of peacekeepers to a maximum of 15,000.

UNIFIL increased from just 2,000 peacekeepers in July 2006 to 13,000 in the following months.

UNIFIL Mission Profile

Lebanese army deploys in south Lebanon for the first time in 30 years

After the 2006 war, as Israel withdrew from Lebanon, part of UNIFIL’s mandate was to accompany and support the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) as they deployed throughout southern Lebanon for the first time in 30 years.

The LAF is responsible for maintaining a stable and secure environment throughout Lebanon. UNIFIL supports and works in close coordination with the LAF to monitor the cessation of hostilities and ensure that the area between the Litani River and the Blue Line is not utilized for hostile activities.

Since 2011, UNIFIL and the LAF have increased the number of joint patrols and training. The aim for UNIFIL is to hand over full security responsibility to the LAF and the Internal Security Forces.

In addition to LAF’s Fifth and Seventh brigades working alongside UNIFIL, the LAF deployed its Fifth Intervention Regiment to the UNIFIL area of operation in September 2017.

UNIFIL maintains an intensive level of some 13,500 operational activities per month, by day and night, in the 1,060 square kilometre area of operations. Up to 17% of these are conducted jointly with LAF.

UNIFIL’s work with LAF

UNIFIL liaison – a vital communication link

Since 2006 there has been a continued cessation of hostilities. This stability would not be possible without UNIFIL’s strong coordination and liaison mechanism and the cooperation of both the parties.

The daily liaison and communication UNIFIL conducts between the parties keeps both informed as events unfold. This prevents misunderstandings or miscalculations along the Blue Line and limits the possibility of an accidental war.

“It is important for the leaders on both sides to take advantage of the window of opportunity that UNIFIL has helped provide to work towards a permanent ceasefire and long-term solution to the conflict as envisaged in UN Security Council Resolution 1701. A peacekeeping operation helps create the space for political solutions.”

Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Head of UN Peacekeeping

UNIFIL Maritime Task Force

The first naval operation in UN peacekeeping history

Established in October 2006, UNIFIL MTF supports the Lebanese Navy preventing the unauthorized entry of arms or related materiel by sea into Lebanon. It also carries out a range of joint training exercises with the Lebanese Navy. The intention is for the Lebanese Navy to eventually assume all duties required for maritime security. MTF currently has about 750 personnel and six ships.

Making the Blue Line visible

On 25 May 2000, Israel unilaterally withdrew from Lebanon in line with the UN Security Council Resolution 425 (1978). Because no agreed border existed between the countries, in June of that year the United Nations set about identifying a Line of Withdrawal for the sole purpose of confirming the full withdrawal of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) from the Lebanese territory.

The Line of Withdrawal as it is officially titled is more commonly known today as the Blue Line.

It is important to note that the Blue Line does not represent an international border and is without prejudice to any future border agreements between Lebanon and Israel. In 2007 both parties agreed to a UNIFIL proposal to visibly mark the line on the ground.

This is an ongoing tripartite project to foster mutual trust and diffuse tensions. The blue barrels also directly contribute to the security of the people living on both sides of the Blue Line by preventing inadvertent crossing.

UNIFIL’s capacity building work

One of the key aspects of resolution 1701, which forms the core of UNIFIL’s mandate, is capacity building and the extension of state authority to the UNIFIL area of operation. UNIFIL carries out this task by hosting numerous joint trainings between international peacekeepers with specialist skill-sets such as fire fighters, naval officers and military police and their Lebanese counterparts. These first-responders exchange expertise and techniques on how best to protect civilians and maintain peace.

UNIFIL supporting south Lebanese communities

spent on civil-military cooperation (CIMIC) projects since 2006 to February 2018
CIMIC activities each day
CIMIC activities per year

Hundreds of “low costs / no cost” activities such as medical and dental assistance and veterinaries support.
UNIFIL carries out many projects that support the communities living in South Lebanon. They include medical assistance, education and training workshops, infrastructure and sanitation projects.

312 UNIFIL peacekeepers have given their lives in the cause of peace in southern Lebanon since UNIFIL’s establishment in 1978.

“All of us owe it to their memory to ensure that we do not fail in our mission to bring peace to south Lebanon.”

Major General Michael Beary, Head of UNIFIL

Building peace and facilitating dialogue

Since the end of the 2006 war, UNIFIL has hosted regular Tripartite meetings with senior officials from the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

Chaired by UNIFIL’s Head of Mission and Force Commander, this forum – launched on the day the cessation of hostilities came into effect on 14 August 2006 – has become a regular and essential conflict management and confidence-building mechanism between the parties.

Since enhanced UNIFIL was deployed, the last 12 years have seen a cessation of hostilities. There has been an unprecedented calm in the region. This fragile peace has benefited the communities living along the Blue Line both socially and economically. As we reflect on 40 years, we must use the momentum of the last 12 years to push for a political negotiation to reach a permanent ceasefire and secure a lasting peace.

“Each mission must be considered in its unique political context. …the success of every mission depends on an active political process, with the commitment of all stakeholders, particularly governments.”

António Guterres, UN Secretary-General

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