FAQs

What is UNIFIL’s role?

UNIFIL, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, is a peacekeeping mission in south Lebanon. It was established by the Security Council in 1978 with Resolutions 425 and 426 after Israel invaded Lebanon. The resolutions established an international peacekeeping mission to:

  • ⁠confirm Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon,
  • restore international peace and security, and 
  • assist the Lebanese Government in restoring its effective authority in the area. 

After the July-August 2006 war between Hizbullah and Israel, the UN Security Council enhanced UNIFIL’s mandate. While peacekeepers were still responsible for the tasks given to them under Resolutions 425 and 426, they were given new tasks, including

  • monitoring the cessation of hostilities,
  • ⁠accompanying and supporting the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) as they deploy throughout the south of Lebanon, and
  • ⁠in the aftermath of the war, helping ensure humanitarian access to civilian populations and the voluntary and safe return of displaced persons.

For more details, see Mandate.

 

Did resolution 2650 (2022) or resolution 2695 (2023) change UNIFIL’s mandate?

Resolutions 2650 and 2591 confirmed and clarified UNIFIL's mandate under resolution 1701. Although there was some change in language, the main points remain the same as under previous resolutions.

While there was some initial misunderstanding of some paragraphs, resolution 2650 restated that UNIFIL has always had the mandate to undertake patrols in its area of operations, both independently and with the Lebanese Armed Forces. This freedom of movement has been reiterated in Security Council resolutions renewing UNIFIL’s mandate, including Resolution 1701 in 2006, and UNIFIL’s Status of Forces Agreement, signed in 1995. 

UNIFIL coordinates activities and works closely with the LAF every day, and this did not change.

For more information, see our news release and press statement.

 

Where is UNIFIL located?

UNIFIL is deployed in southern Lebanon. Its area of operations is defined by the Litani River in the north and the Blue Line in the south. UNIFIL’s Headquarters is located in the town of Naqoura and it has 50 positions throughout its 1,060 square kilometre area between the Litani River and the Blue Line.

Additionally, UNIFIL has a maritime deployment (Maritime Task Force) that stretches along the entire length of the Lebanese coastline.

See a map of UNIFIL’s area of operations here.

 

How many peacekeepers does UNIFIL have?

UNIFIL currently has about 10,000 troops drawn from 49 countries,.In addition, UNIFIL has about 800 civilian staff, both international and national, serving with the Mission.

 

How does UNIFIL deal with violations of resolution 1701?

UNIFIL’s focus is on ensuring full respect for, and preventing violations of, the relevant provisions of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006). UNIFIL is mandated to report all violations of the resolution to the UN Security Council. The Mission takes preventive measures by monitoring the Blue Line, including the airspace above it, and through coordination, liaising, and patrolling to prevent violations. 

For example, whenever there is an incident across the Blue Line, UNIFIL immediately deploys additional troops to that location if needed to avoid a direct conflict between the two sides and to ensure that the situation is contained. At the same time, it liaises with the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Israel Defense Forces, in order to reverse and bring an end to the situation without any escalation.

 

What is the Blue Line?

The Blue Line is the 120-kilometre line of withdrawal that was identified in the year 2000 by the United Nations, in cooperation with Lebanese and Israeli officials, for the purpose of confirming the withdrawal of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) from Lebanese territory in conformity with Security Council resolution 425 (1978). The Blue Line does not constitute a border between Lebanon and Israel and is without any prejudice to future border agreements between the two states. Any unauthorized crossing of the Blue Line by land or by air from any side constitutes a violation of Security Council resolution 1701.

You can learn more about why marking the Blue Line is important by reading the articleIt’s Time to Talk About the Blue Line: Constructive Re-engagement is Key to Stability.”

  

Is UNIFIL responsible for implementation of all aspects of UN Security Council resolution 1701 (2006)?

Resolution 1701 defines UNIFIL’s mandate, which has various aspects to it.  The Mandate includes maintaining security and stability throughout south Lebanon through comprehensive liaison and coordination arrangements, as well as the tripartite mechanism, which has the full and active participation of both parties (Israel and Lebanon). All political aspects of resolution 1701 fall under the purview of the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon (UNSCOL).

UNIFIL and the Lebanese Armed Forces routinely coordinate activities, including foot and vehicle patrols, by day and by night. Our work in conjunction and close coordination with the Lebanese Armed Forces, as well as the strong commitment of the parties to the cessation of hostilities, has resulted in an unprecedented period of relative stability in southern Lebanon.

UNIFIL’s deployment, together with the Lebanese Armed Forces, has helped to establish a new strategic environment in southern Lebanon. This creates a window of opportunity for a long-term solution through the political process as also envisioned in resolution 1701.  Still, while a peacekeeping operation can support diplomatic efforts to reach a political solution, it cannot be the substitute for a political solution.

 

When did UNIFIL troops first arrive?

UNIFIL was established by UN Security Council resolutions 425 and 426 on 19 March 1978. The first UNIFIL troops arrived in Lebanon on 23 March 1978.

See UNIFIL’s timeline here.

 

How does UNIFIL ensure security in south Lebanon?

Maintaining a stable and secure environment in the area is first and foremost the responsibility of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). UNIFIL assists and supports the LAF, including in their efforts to ensure that the area between the Litani River and the Blue Line is free of illegal weapons and is not used for any hostile activity. Acting in support of a request from the Government of Lebanon, the Security Council has authorized UNIFIL to take all necessary action in areas of deployment of its forces and as it deems within its capabilities, to ensure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind; to resist attempts by forceful means to prevent it from discharging its duties; and support the Government of Lebanon to secure its borders and other entry points to prevent the entry in Lebanon without its consent of arms or related materiel.

UNIFIL maintains an intensive level of about 450 operational activities each day. .

See more details in Operations.

 

Can UNIFIL use force?

As a peacekeeping mission operating under Chapter 6 of the UN Charter, UNIFIL has the mandate to ensure stability in the area, protect the civilian population, and support the parties in discharging their respective responsibilities towards achieving a permanent ceasefire.  In carrying their mandate, UNIFIL personnel may exercise their inherent right of self-defence. In addition to the use of force beyond self-defence, and without prejudice of the primary responsibility of the Government of Lebanon, UNIFIL may under certain circumstances and conditions resort to the proportionate and gradual use of force to ensure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities; to resist attempts by forceful means to prevent UNIFIL from discharging its duties under the mandate authorized by the Security Council; to protect UN personnel, facilities, installations and equipment; to ensure the security and freedom of movement of UN personnel and humanitarian workers; and to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence.

 

How does UNIFIL cooperate with the Lebanese Armed Forces?

UNIFIL coordinates its activities, including foot and vehicle patrols, with the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). As of 2022, about 20% of UNIFIL’s activities are done together with the LAF, while the rest are done independently.

UNIFIL’s long-term objective is to gradually transfer responsibilities to Lebanese Armed Forces so that it assumes full and effective security control over UNIFIL’s area of operations and Lebanese territorial waters in line with resolution 1701. 

Close cooperation between UNIFIL and LAF has since been key to the implementation of the Security Council resolution 1701 (2006), which aims at ensuring a safe and secure environment in south Lebanon and the “establishment between the Blue Line and the Litani river of an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons, other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL”.

Due to the economic situation that has prevailed in Lebanon since 2019, the armed forces as an institution, and individual soldiers themselves, have faced challenges. This led to fewer activities with UNIFIL as the crisis progressed. The Security Council, however, recognized the challenge. When it adopted resolution 2591 (2021), the Council requested UNIFIL to take “temporary and special measures” to support the LAF with essential items like medicine, fuel, food, and logistics for six months. The request for this support was renewed for another six months with resolution 2650 (2022).

See more details in Operations.

 

Have there been any fatalities?

UNIFIL has had 334 fatalities since 1978 (as of 18 March 2024).

 

What is the Observer Group Lebanon?

The Observer Group Lebanon (OGL) is an unarmed UN military observer mission, which has been present in Lebanon since 1949 as part of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO). More than 50 OGL military observers assist UNIFIL in carrying out its mandate. The observers conduct patrols in villages and along the Blue Line, as a confidence-building measure, and interacts closely with the local population.

Learn more about how OGL works with UNIFIL here.

 

Does UNIFIL provide humanitarian assistance to the local population?

In the immediate aftermath of the 2006 war, a major task mandated by UN Security Council resolution 1701 was for UNIFIL to help ensure humanitarian access to civilian populations and the voluntary and safe return of persons who had been displaced during the conflict.

Although not a humanitarian or development agency, UNIFIL contingents routinely provide free medical, dental, veterinary and other assistance to the local population. In addition, UNIFIL contingents have conducted various training programmes for people living in south Lebanon, including agriculture, computer skills, languages, entrepreneurship, mediation, yoga, and taekwondo.

UNIFIL’s engineering and other operational resources and equipment are deployed in the mission area to support the implementation of the mandate, which may in certain circumstances indirectly benefit the local population. UNIFIL also has a limited budget for small community projects.

More details in Civil Interaction. Visit the photo gallery or our video library for a glimpse of the different community support activities.

 

How does UNIFIL relate to the local population in south Lebanon?

UNIFIL considers the informed support of the people of south Lebanon as imperative for successful implementation of its mandate. Interactions with the communities are regularly conducted at every level.

UNIFIL personnel are particularly sensitized to the need to respect the local culture and customs. All UNIFIL contingents meet with the civilian authorities of local villages upon their arrival.

Conscious of the impact of UNIFIL’s military deployment among the civilian population, the mission enforces a strict code of conduct for its soldiers and staff. Any incidents (including road accidents) are investigated by UN investigative authorities.

UNIFIL’s round-the-clock workto monitor and patrol its area of operations can affect the everyday life of the local population, for example with the mission’s use of armoured vehicles and heavy machinery on local roadways. All efforts are made to be as respectful and non-intrusive as possible while ensuring that, in conjunction with the Lebanese Armed Forces, UNIFIL delivers on the mandate agreed to by the Lebanese government.

More details in Civil Interaction.

 

What is a Quick Impact Project?

UNIFIL is not a humanitarian agency but it does have a limited budget to address community needs. Quick Impact Projects, with funding from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, are intended to address some of the most pressing needs of the local population and support local authorities while strengthening the links between UNIFIL and local communities. Quick Impact Projects are small-scale, rapidly implementable projects which complement, rather than substitute, the longer-term development initiatives of other agencies and actors. These projects are often undertaken at the request of municipalities and implemented in coordination with other UN agencies and NGOs.

See more details in Civil Interaction, or visit the photo gallery or our video library to see some of our Quick Impact Projects.

 

Does UNIFIL perform demining operations?

Since 2006, UNIFIL deminers have cleared nearly 5 million square metres of mine-filled land in south Lebanon. They have also destroyed more than 51,000 mines, bombs and unexploded ordnances.

UNIFIL’s demining assets are primarily intended to carry out operational tasks in support of UNSCR 1701. UNIFIL demining teams perform operational tasks in order to demarcate the line of withdrawal  to maintain peace and stability along the Blue Line and south of the Litani River. Following the war in 2006, UNIFIL teams also conducted humanitarian demining in order to protect the civilian population from the dangers of landmines and other explosive remnants of war, and to facilitate safe access to dwellings and agricultural land as best as possible.

In 2010, operational priorities shifted to the facilitation of Blue Line marking and ensuring the safety of patrols carried out by UNIFIL peacekeepers. The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) Lebanon, in close coordination with UNIFIL, plays a key role in this effort by ensuring that UNIFIL deminers work safely and efficiently through the provision of training and by closely monitoring the progress and quality of demining activities.

In 2020, UNIFIL signed a new agreement with the Lebanese Mine Action Centre (LMAC) of the Lebanese Armed Forces to enhance cooperation on humanitarian demining.

In addition to demining activities, UNIFIL works to reduce the threat and impact of landmines and other ERWs through the provision of landmine/ERWs safety and awareness training to UN and NGO personnel. Additionally, UNMAS Lebanon in close coordination with UNIFIL supports the Lebanon Mine Action Center by providing mine risk education to local populations throughout south Lebanon.See more details in UN Mine Action and UNIFIL.

 

What is the UNIFIL Maritime Task Force?

The Maritime Task Force (MTF) is a naval peacekeeping force that was deployed in October 2006 at the request of the Lebanese Government  to assist the Lebanese Navy in securing the country’s maritime boundaries and other entry points to prevent the entry of arms and related material into Lebanon without the government’s consent. This is the first ever maritime deployment in a United Nations peacekeeping mission.

UNIFIL’s long-term objective is to gradually transfer responsibilities to Lebanese Armed Forces, including its navy, so that it assumes full and effective security control over UNIFIL’s area of operations and the Lebanese territorial waters in line with resolution 1701. 

To accomplish this long-term goal, the MTF has been very active in working in close coordination with the LAF Navy in providing technical assistance, sharing expertise, and training together on a regular basis.

So far, 15 countries have contributed naval units to the UNIFIL Maritime Task Force: Bangladesh, Brazil, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Turkey. Currently, Germany, Bangladesh, Greece, and Turkey have ships present.

See more in UNIFIL Maritime Task Force | UNIFIL (unmissions.org).

 

What does the Maritime Task Force do?

UNIFIL’s naval units operate across the entire stretch of the Lebanese coastline in close cooperation with the Lebanese Navy. The Maritime Task Force monitors and hails ships and other maritime traffic entering Lebanese waters, and reports suspect vessels to Lebanese authorities for inspection.

The MTF also conducts air surveillance over maritime and land territories in support of the Lebanese authorities and search and rescue operations in close coordination with Lebanese Navy.

In addition, MTF is also working to build sustainable operational capacity within the Lebanese Navy through joint exercises, training, equipment and technical assistance.

 

Did UNIFIL play a role in the demarcation of UNIFIL’s maritime border?

UNIFIL provided logistical support to US-mediated maritime demarcation negotiations between Lebanon and Israel in October 2020 and May 2021, mainly in providing a secure venue for the negotiations to take place. UNIFIL also hosted the signing ceremony at its position in Ras al-Naqoura on 27 October 2022.

The demarcation of the maritime border between Lebanon and Israel is not part of UNIFIL’s mandate. The mandate of UNIFIL’s Maritime Task Force is limited to helping the Lebanese Navy, at the government’s request, prevent the unauthorized entry of arms or related materiel into Lebanon by sea.

Nonetheless, the mission hopes that progress made at sea may presage future progress on land, and eventually long-term peace.

 

Points for USG (January 2023)

Freedom of movement. UNIFIL peacekeepers have full freedom to work and patrol in their area of operations, and to move throughout Lebanon. This was agreed to by the Government of Lebanon in the Status of Forces Agreement in 1995 and has been noted in the Security Council resolutions renewing UNIFIL’s mandate. This freedom is necessary for the mission to fulfill the mandate requested by the Government of Lebanon, which requires peacekeepers to undertake patrols and various necessary logistical and administrative tasks. An important part of UNIFIL’s mandate is to monitor violations of Resolution 1701 by either side. It can only fulfill the mandate if peacekeepers have full freedom to access all parts of the area of operations and the Blue Line. Any attempt to interfere with the work or movement of peacekeepers is a violation of Resolution 1701.

Independent patrols. UNIFIL is an independent and impartial mission. The Government of Lebanon has always agreed that UNIFIL can patrol and conduct activities within its area of operations on its own. UNIFIL’s freedom of movement, agreed to by the Government of Lebanon, means peacekeepers can travel and work without the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). UNIFIL works closely with the LAF and informs the LAF of peacekeepers’ activities and movements. But to be able to fulfil its mandate independently and impartially, peacekeepers must be able to do their work on their own, when necessary and when the mission chooses to do so.

Supporting the Lebanese authorities. Peacekeepers are in south Lebanon at the request of the Government of Lebanon. Part of UNIFIL’s mandate is to support the Lebanese authorities and help strengthen their capacities in the south, so that they can eventually exercise full control over the territory. UNIFIL peacekeepers work in close partnership and cooperation with the Lebanese Armed Forces to preserve stability in the region. The mission’s eventual goal is to transfer responsibility for all security-related tasks in the south to the Lebanese authorities. Building this local capacity is why peacekeepers perform operational activities and undertake training alongside Lebanese soldiers and sailors as much as possible.

Accountability for crimes against peacekeepers. Peacekeeping missions are made up of people – people who want to make a positive difference in the world, and people who are far from home, many of whom are very young. People like Private Seán Rooney, a 23 year-old Irish peacekeeper whose life was ended in a senseless and horrific act of violence in December 2022. When peacekeepers are attacked, when they are hurt or killed, it is not a signal or a political message. It is a crime. It is a crime under both international and Lebanese law. In each and every case, we need swift and thorough investigations by the Lebanese authorities to find those responsible, and effective legal processes to hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes.

 
Last updated: 20 October 2023