Picking up the pieces

Just how quickly can the international community, in the shape of the United Nations, move into southern Lebanon and help pick up the pieces after a month of bitter fighting?

Civilians on both sides have been the real losers
Civilians on both sides have been the real losers

The jury is still out on that one as intensive negotiations on the composition of the force and its rules of engagement are thrashed out in New York.

But one thing is certain, the new UN multi-national force, cannot come a day too soon.

To say that the ceasefire between the Israelis and Hezbollah is precarious would be the understatement of the year.

The Lebanese army will be the first to begin to fill the breach, along with UN forces already in Lebanon, who have tenaciously held on to their posts as the fighting raged around them.

Even as the ceasefire came into force, yet another UN compound had come under fire from Israeli forces.

The UN has authorised a 15,000-strong force for south Lebanon

The UN has authorised a 15,000-
strong force for south Lebanon

Five UN soldiers have lost their lives and another 16 have been wounded, but now the UN is proposing to send in a vanguard force of 3,000 well-equipped soldiers, with the mandate to disarm – by force if necessary – anyone breaking the ceasefire.

But this advance force could take between 10 and 15 days to arrive – and according to Mark Malloch Brown, deputy secretary-general of the UN, it could be a full month, before the new UN force reaches its 15,000 ceiling.


So what do we know? We hear that the French do not want to be described as leading the new peacekeeping mission, but that they will play a major role.

They may be joined by an Italian contingent, and then there are the Muslim countries anxious to help; Indonesia, Malaysia, Jordan and perhaps Morocco.

UN troops will have authority to disarm by force if necessary

UN troops will have authority to
disarm by force if necessary

They will be expected to react in a “robust” way should they come under fire or should the ceasefire be breached, but discussions on equipping them still continue.

Meanwhile the new United Nations human rights commission has voted 27 to 11 to launch an investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes in Lebanon, while the UN’s chief human rights official, Louise Arbour, has criticised both sides for attacking civilians.

No one is yet talking of reparations to Lebanon’s devastated infrastructure – but should Israel be found guilty of war crimes, pressure will mount on Ehud Olmert, the embattled Israeli prime minister.

No victory

With all sides claiming victory in a war that appears to have been some months in the planning, the real losers are the civilians – particularly those in devastated Lebanon, but also in Haifa, many of whom are just as glad to see an end to this dirty little war that could have led to something so much bigger.

In truth, no one has won. Israel has learned that it cannot fight a guerilla war with a traditional army.

Hezbollah may be forced out of its south Lebanon redoubts and Syrian influence in Lebanon may suffer as a consequence.

And President Bush, who hoped that Israel’s attacks on Hezbollah would shake their Iranian and Syrian backers, will also be disappointed.

The United Nation’s slow and dithering response hardly puts it in a good light either.

Source: Al Jazeera

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