Maintaining Stability And Containing Armed Conflict In Lebanon
Year(s): 1978 – present.
UN Regional Group: Asia-Pacific.
Type of Conflict: Horizontal (non-state) Intrastate Conflict, Vertical (state-based) Intrastate Conflict with Foreign Involvement.
Type of Initiative: Peacekeeping mission.
Main Implementing Organisation(s): The UN.
Summary: UN Peacekeepers have helped maintain stability and contain or end several armed conflicts in Lebanon since 1978.
Description of Case
The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was established on 19 March 1978 in response to the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon following attacks on Tel Aviv by Palestinian militants from bases in the area. UNIFIL was initially tasked with confirming Israeli withdrawals, restoring peace and security to the area, and helping the Government of Lebanon re-establish its authority across the country. Owing to the complex geopolitical situation, the peacekeepers were initially limited to providing humanitarian assistance rather than pursuing their mandate. In 1985, the gradual Israeli withdrawal began, continuing until 2000, when it was finally completed. UNIFIL filled the gap left by their departure, with peacekeepers working to maintain the ceasefire through joint patrols and regular consultations with both the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and the Lebanese Army. In this period, UNIFIL played a key role in supporting the Lebanese Armed Forces (which were still in recovery from the 1975-1989 civil war) as they asserted state authority in southern Lebanon and disarmed militias, while also providing vital basic services to the population. Although quantifying the impact of UNIFIL during these years is difficult, the fragility of the Lebanese state and the preponderance of armed groups in the area of operation made renewed conflict a real possibility.
The 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon (in response to Hezbollah attacks on Israel from Lebanese territory) cost the lives of many peacekeepers and presented many challenges to UNIFIL. After a month of fighting, a ceasefire was agreed on 14 August. In the aftermath of the conflict, the parameters of the UNIFIL mission changed considerably. The strength of the operation was increased considerably, both in terms of overall numbers and heavy weapons, and a naval component was added to help the Lebanese Armed Forces monitor their maritime borders and limit the flow of weapons to Hezbollah. Once again, UNIFIL was positioned between the withdrawing IDF troops and unoccupied Lebanese territory to assure both sides, monitor the ceasefire, deliver basic services, and accompany Lebanese security forces as they returned to the area. This complex task was completed without incident, and relative stability was once again established in southern Lebanon. UNIFIL continues contributing to peace and stability in the region at the time of writing.
 Suzanne Goldenberg. “Chaos and humiliation as Israel pulls out of Lebanon.” The Guardian. (24 May 2000) Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2000/may/24/israelandthepalestinians.lebanon (Accessed 27/10/2021)
 Jeffrey Feltman. “Debating UN peacekeeping in Lebanon.” Brookings. (15 June 2020) Available at: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2020/06/15/debating-un-peacekeeping-in-lebanon/ (Accessed 27/10/2021)
 UNIFIL. UNIFIL Background.