UN warns ceasefire violations could spark Lebanon-Israel war

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations (UN) Security Council warned on Thursday that violations of the cessation of hostilities between Israel and Lebanon in the latter country’s south “could lead to a new conflict that none of the parties or the region can afford.”

The council warning came in a French-sponsored resolution adopted unanimously that extends the mandate of the 10,500-strong UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, known as UNIFIL, until August 31, 2020.

It was approved days after an alleged Israeli drone crashed in a Hezbollah stronghold in southern Beirut and after Lebanese army gunners fired on Wednesday at Israeli reconnaissance drones flying in Lebanese airspace, heightening tensions between the two countries.

The Security Council urged all parties to “exercise maximum calm and restraint and refrain from any action or rhetoric that could jeopardise the cessation of hostilities or destabilise the region”.

UNIFIL was originally created to oversee the withdrawal of Israeli troops after a 1978 invasion of Lebanon. The mission was expanded after a 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah militants so peacekeepers could deploy along the Lebanon-Israel border, to help Lebanese troops extend their authority into their country’s south for the first time in decades.

France’s Deputy UN Ambassador, Anne Gueguen, told the council after the vote that “UNIFIL is essential for the stability of Lebanon and the region, and must remain the guarantor of the cessation of hostilities between Lebanon and Israel.”

“At a time of great tensions it is essential for all parties to demonstrate the greatest restraint,” she said.