Working with UNIFIL, LAF confirms 8 new Blue Line points

Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) geographical team notes the LAF coordinates in the Blue Line marking process near Blida, south-eastern Lebanon.

UNIFIL peacekeepers carrying the UN flag lead the LAF geographical team past a blue barrel in Meiss Ej-Jabal, south-eastern Lebanon.

On a steep incline, the LAF and UNIFIL geographical teams measure the coordinates a of new Blue Line point near Blida, south-eastern Lebanon.

UNIFIL Commander Major General Michael Beary is briefed by UNIFIL and LAF geographical teams during the marking of a Blue Line point near the Sheikh Abbad tomb, south-eastern Lebanon.

A peacekeeper from UNIFIL’s geographical team checks the coordinates of a Blue Line point measured by LAF geographical teams, near the town of Houla. 

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13 Jul 2017

Working with UNIFIL, LAF confirms 8 new Blue Line points

Along the Blue Line near Blida fields, the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) Blue Line team holds their surveying and mapping instrument steady to take GIS coordinates. As a LAF officer calls out the coordinates, his colleagues write them down and they confirm the position. Then they hammer a large steel picket into the ground. The picket they are hammering is near two others, one is sprayed blue, indicating UNIFIL’s measurement, and the other is sprayed yellow, indicating the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) measurement. The sound of a spray paint being shaken interrupts the quiet countryside, then the LAF team sprays their third picket a bright red. 

As the UNIFIL GIS officers measure the distance between each of the pickets, Brigadier General Antoun Mourad from LAF explains, “Today we have to measure eight new points along the Blue Line. These newly proposed points will be measured by the LAF with UNIFIL. Part of these points were measured by the Israeli side, and other parts still need to be measured. After the measuring process ends, the marking process starts.”

A blue, a red and a yellow picket in such close proximity means in the near future a blue barrel will be erected here. For a point to be confirmed, the difference between the pickets should be within 50 centimetres. The simplicity of these three pickets hammered into in the ground symbolize a much deeper process of negotiation and cooperation. Every single Blue Line position is agreed upon by representatives from both Lebanon and Israel.

UNIFIL’s Senior Political Officer, John Molloy, details the process, “When we come to build a barrel it's in centimetric precision, so you can see it's a very precise and accurate procedure. What we have found now with 10 years of success, is a very high level of professionalism from both parties. They come with their cartographers to carry out measurements and work with UNIFIL in a most professional manner.” 

The summer sun climbs in the sky, and both the UNIFIL and LAF Blue Line teams move quickly and efficiently through the measuring process. The coordinates of two points are measured before UNIFIL’s Head of Mission and Force Commander, Major General Michael Beary, joins the teams at the next point close to the Sheikh Abbad Tomb, in Houla.

He watches the UNIFIL and LAF teams carefully measure, check and mark their coordinates. He says that the visible marking of the Blue Line is “really important” as it allows an instant reference for both parties, as well as the residents living alongside, to be able to see where the Line of Withdrawal is. 
“Both parties support this process; it's a strategic issue and we have to keep working on marking the Blue Line,” he adds. “The aim is to continue to work with both parties to get the entire Line marked with inter-visible markers so everybody has a clear reference where the line is to prevent any inadvertent crossing.” 

Brigadier General Mourad concludes, “The UN Security Council Resolution 1701 largely focuses on the Blue Line, and the marking process of the Blue Line is an essential stage towards achieving the ultimate goal of resolution 1701, which is the transition from the cessation of hostilities to a state of permanent ceasefire.”

The 120km Line of Withdrawal, or “Blue line” as it is more commonly known, was established by the United Nations in the year 2000 to confirm the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon. At a tripartite meeting in 2007, both parties agreed to visibly mark the Blue Line on the ground. 

It is important to note: The Blue Line does not in any way represent an international border and is without prejudice to any future border agreements between Lebanon and Israel. The Blue Line marking process is an ongoing tripartite project to foster mutual trust and to diffuse tensions. Blue barrels also directly contribute to the security of the people living on both sides of the Blue Line by preventing inadvertent crossing.

To date, UNIFIL in coordination with both parties, has measured 282 points, and 268 Blue Line Barrels have been constructed.


Article: Aoibheann O’Sullivan
Video Camera: Mohamad Hamze & Aoibheann O’Sullivan
Video Editor: Suzane Badereddine & Aoibheann O’Sullivan
Stills: Pascual Gorriz