Lebanon Table of Contents
The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was established by the United Nations (UN) Security Council with Resolution 425 on March 19, 1978, "for the purpose of confirming the withdrawal of Israeli forces, restoring international peace and security, and assisting the government of Lebanon in ensuring the return of its effective authority in the area." Subsequent Resolution 426 defined UNIFIL's rules of engagement and instructed it to "use its best efforts to prevent the recurrence of fighting" and to ensure that its area of operation would not be used for hostile activities of any kind. UNIFIL consisted of approximately 7,000 men from 14 UN member states and between 30 and 90 military observers from the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization, headquartered in the town of An Naqurah.
UNIFIL, however, encountered difficulty in performing its mission. Resolution 425 made "full cooperation of all parties concerned" a prerequisite for UNIFIL's deployment. Although Israel had agreed formally to take the necessary steps for compliance with the resolution, it did not believe that UNIFIL could stop PLO incursions across the border. Therefore, when Israel started to withdraw in late March, it refused to relinquish all of the territory it had conquered in southern Lebanon to UNIFIL. Instead, Israel turned over an enclave to its proxy force, the SLA, increasing the area under Major Haddad's control. This area included not only the ten-kilometer-deep security belt adjacent to the Israeli border but also a vertical north-south corridor running from the border to the Litani River and splitting the UNIFIL area into two noncontiguous zones (see fig. 10).
Other parties frustrated the UNIFIL peacekeeping efforts. Although the PLO also had promised to cooperate with UNIFIL, it argued that the 1969 Cairo Agreement entitled it to operate in southern Lebanon, and it attempted to reoccupy areas after Israel withdrew. Furthermore, on the grounds that the IDF had not occupied Tyre, the PLO refused to allow UNIFIL to police the city, and Palestinian patrols attempted repeatedly to pass through UNIFIL lines. For its part, the SLA did not even make a pretense of cooperating with UNIFIL. Instead, it attacked UNIFIL personnel and encroached on UNIFIL's perimeter. Nevertheless, UNIFIL restored order to the areas under its control and served as an effective buffer force insulating Israel from the Palestinians. It set up roadblocks, checkpoints, and observation posts, interdicting approximately ten guerrilla patrols per month heading toward Israel. When UNIFIL apprehended Palestinian guerrillas, it confiscated their weapons but usually returned them later to PLO leaders. UNIFIL paid a price for performing its mission, however; between 1978 and 1982, thirty-six UNIFIL members were killed in action.
In late 1987 the future of UNIFIL was in doubt. Ironically, Israel, which had long considered UNIFIL a hindrance to its operations, changed its policy and in 1986 praised the positive role UNIFIL played in stabilizing the region. For its part, the government of Lebanon requested that UNIFIL be expanded to police almost the entire country. But at the same time, the Shias in southern Lebanon, who had traditionally supported UNIFIL, turned against the organization. In September 1986, Shia extremists started attacking UNIFIL's French contingent, and in five weeks of combat they killed four and wounded thirty. UNIFIL's casualty toll mounted and by mid-1987 stood at 139 killed and over 200 wounded. In 1986 the United States Congress cut the annual United States appropriation to UNIFIL from US$40 million to US$18 million, while France announced that it would withdraw its troops from UNIFIL in 1987.
Data as of December 1987