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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Ban's report on 1701: Lebanese elections should be conducted within constitutional timeframe

Ban Ki-moon addresses a joint press conference with
United States Secretary of State John Kerry. 14 February 2013
Attached is an advance copy of the Report of the Secretary-General on the Implementation of Security Council Resolution 1701 (2006) for the information of the members of the Security Council.
This report will be issued as a document of the Security Council under the symbol S/2013/120.
27 February 2013

Report of the Secretary-General on the Implementation of Security Council Resolution 1701 (2006)
Reporting Period 30 October 2012 to 28 February 2013

I. Introduction
1. The present report provides a comprehensive assessment of the implementation of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006) since my last report of 14 November 2012 (S/2012/837).
2. Against the backdrop of the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, the cessation of hostilities between Israel and Lebanon continued to hold and the situation south of the Litani River and along the Blue Line generally remained stable. Although there was no substantive progress towards implementation of their respective outstanding obligations under resolution 1701 (2006), the parties maintained their commitment to the resolution. During the reporting period, both parties sought to reassure the other side through the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) that they did not wish to see any resumption of hostilities and, in some instances, sought to develop further security and liaison arrangements with UNIFIL.
3. Nevertheless, unidentified armed groups attempted on two occasions to launch rockets from Lebanon into northern Israel, coinciding with the timing of the conflict in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel from 14 to 21 November 2012. UNIFIL and the Lebanese Armed Forces responded to the outbreak of the hostilities by enhancing their coordinated activities in UNIFIL’s area of operations.

4. Lebanese President Michel Sleiman visited UNIFIL Headquarters in Naqoura on 18 January 2013 to express Lebanon’s appreciation for the work of UNIFIL and highlight the partnership that exists between the Lebanese Armed Forces and UNIFIL in the implementation of resolution 1701 (2006).

5. Violent incidents continued to occur across the Lebanese-Syrian border during the reporting period although there was a substantial decrease in casualties. At least three Lebanese citizens were killed including a child by shots fired from Syria and Syrian Government forces were responsible for further incidents of cross-border shelling which caused material damage. The Lebanese Armed Forces reported continued smuggling of weapons destined for Syria. Members of a group of fighters crossing from Lebanon into Syria were reported to have been killed by Syrian Government forces near the Syrian town of Tal Kalakh. The Syrian authorities have returned ten bodies for burial in Lebanon. Nine of the pilgrims abducted on 22 May 2012 in Syria are still detained.

6. The incident in Tal Kalakh prompted a further round of fighting in Tripoli between the Sunni community of Bab al Tabbaneh and the adjacent Alawite neighbourhood of Jabel Mohsen, which lasted from 4 to 10 December and left 17 dead and more than 40 wounded. This was the sixth outbreak of violence in Tripoli since the beginning of 2012. On 4 February, a Lebanese court issued an arrest warrant for Syrian General Ali Mamlouk, head of the Syrian National Security Bureau, in connection with the investigation into the Michel Samaha case, on which I have previously reported. On 20 February, a judge issued an indictment against the three suspects in the case.

7. President Sleiman led consultations with all Lebanese parties in the period after the 19 October 2012 assassination of General Wissam al-Hassan. The investigation into the assassination continues but no perpetrators have been identified as yet. Members of 14 March maintained a boycott of the Government and of the National Dialogue, which did not meet during the reporting period. Preparations for parliamentary elections continued but were over-shadowed by disagreements over a possible new electoral law; the elections are due in June.

8. The number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon continued to rise sharply. As of 25 February, UNHCR reported that more than 305,000 Syrian refugees were receiving assistance in Lebanon, more than double the figure cited in my last report and the highest number in any of the countries neighbouring Syria. In addition, some 31,500 Palestinian refugees as of 25 February have been displaced from Syria into Lebanon. I discussed Lebanon’s efforts and needs in addressing the challenge of refugee inflows in my meetings with President Sleiman on 30 January in Kuwait City on the margins of the International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria, and with Prime Minister Najib Mikati on 25 January in Davos on the margins of the World Economic Forum.

II. Implementation of resolution 1701 (2006)
A. Situation in the UNIFIL area of operations
9. The situation in UNIFIL’s area of operations generally remained stable during the reporting period. Calm prevailed along the Blue Line and the parties worked closely with UNIFIL to strengthen liaison and coordination arrangements. However, a few incidents occurred which had the potential to spark a serious escalation.
10. The outbreak of conflict in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel on 14 November significantly raised tensions along the Blue Line. UNIFIL and the Lebanese Armed Forces acted immediately to increase their patrolling activities, with a focus on preventing any hostile activities in the area. On 19 November, the Lebanese Armed Forces informed UNIFIL that it had discovered and dismantled two 107mm rockets ready to be fired from a crude launching platform in the area between Mazraat Islamiye and Darjhat (Sector East). On 21 November, UNIFIL heard explosions in Sector East of its area of operations and received information from both the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Israel Defense Forces shortly thereafter that two rockets, which had been fired towards Israel from the vicinity of Al Mansurah located north of the Litani River outside UNIFIL’s area of operations, had landed near Sarda in Lebanon just north of the Blue Line. The Lebanese Armed Forces located the launching site the following day, where it also found a third rocket that had failed to launch. To date, the points of impact have not been located. UNIFIL and the Lebanese Armed Forces are currently conducting investigations into the two rocket incidents.

11. On 17 December, an explosion occurred in the vicinity of Tayr Harfa, approximately two kilometres north of the Blue Line (Sector West). Local authorities told UNIFIL that the explosion was related to the controlled demolition of a cluster bomb. UNIFIL and Lebanese Armed Forces patrols sent to locate and investigate the explosion were prevented temporarily from reaching the suspected location by a large number of vehicles parked on the road. UNIFIL was able to access the site within two hours of the explosion. UNIFIL’s investigation team observed that the ground at the site had been leveled recently with fresh soil, with clear signs of bulldozer tracks. UNIFIL has requested the Lebanese Armed Forces for authorisation to excavate the site and for additional information. UNIFIL’s investigation is ongoing.
12. The Israel Defense Forces continued to violate Lebanese airspace almost daily during the reporting period, with overflights of Lebanese territory and Lebanese territorial waters by unmanned aerial vehicles and fixed-wing aircraft, including fighter jets. On 29 January alone, there were approximately 34 air violations involving multiple fighter jets. On 28 November, at least six Israeli attack helicopters entered Lebanese airspace and flew at low altitude in the general vicinity of Tyre, an action which could have resulted in a serious security incident, as well as putting at risk UNIFIL helicopters normally operating in the area. UNIFIL protested all air violations to the Israel Defense Forces, calling on the Israeli authorities to cease them immediately. The Government of Lebanon also protested the violations, while the Government of Israel continued to maintain that the overflights are a necessary security measure.

13. The Israel Defense Forces continued to occupy the northern part of the village of Ghajar and an adjacent area north of the Blue Line, in violation of resolution 1701 (2006). UNIFIL is still awaiting a response from Israel regarding security arrangements to facilitate the withdrawal of the Israel Defense Forces from the area, proposed to both parties on 25 June 2011. The Lebanese Armed Forces conveyed its approval on 19 July 2011. The Israel Defense Forces indicated that the proposal would require the approval of the Government of Israel. Pending a response from the Government of Israel, UNIFIL is conducting bilateral consultations with the parties in an effort to facilitate the secure use by the local Lebanese population of the SD1 road, which lies just north of the occupied area. Among other security concerns, the Israel Defense Forces continues to express its concern about smuggling activities from Lebanon into Israel that allegedly pass through Ghajar. The overall objective remains the complete withdrawal of the Israel Defense Forces from northern Ghajar and the adjacent area north of the Blue Line.

14. During the reporting period, there were a number of ground violations of the Blue Line by Lebanese shepherds and farmers primarily in the Shab’a Farms area and in the vicinity of Blida and Meiss El Jebel. While some of these violations were inadvertent, others were committed by civilians claiming to own land south of the Blue Line. On 28 October, civilians violated the Blue Line near Bastarra, in the Shab’a Farms area, by approximately 30 metres and started to erect a fence around some olive trees. UNIFIL and the Lebanese Armed Forces subsequently established that the fence was south of the Blue Line, and UNIFIL removed the fence on 21 December. On 24 January 2013, a Member of the Lebanese Parliament, accompanied by some 18 civilians, including journalists, violated the Blue Line in the same area by about 15 metres, and delivered a press statement. UNIFIL protested the incidents to the Lebanese Armed Forces. On 31 October, the Israel Defense Forces apprehended a shepherd alleged to have violated the Blue Line in another part of Shab’a Farms, and returned him the following day. UNIFIL has shared the findings of its investigation into the incident with the parties for comment before finalizing the report. UNIFIL has appealed to both parties to refrain from taking unilateral action when violations occur and instead avail of UNIFIL’s liaison and coordination arrangements.

15. UNIFIL and the Lebanese Armed Forces continued their daily coordinated operational activities, including co-located checkpoints, coordinated patrolling and joint training exercises on land and at sea. UNIFIL conducted an average of almost 10,000 activities monthly, including some 1,100 in close coordination with the Lebanese Armed Forces. UNIFIL and the Lebanese Armed Forces continued to carry out joint counter- rocket launching operations, which were increased during and in the aftermath of the Gaza conflict in November 2012, at a monthly average of approximately 400 counter- rocket launching operations. For its part, UNIFIL continued to man seven co-located checkpoints along the Litani River and carried out regular helicopter patrols of its area of operations.

16. Due to the multiple security responsibilities of the Lebanese Armed Forces throughout Lebanon, the Lebanese Armed Forces deployment in the area of operations remained at the same level as during the preceding period, consisting of approximately two brigades and two battalions, in addition to support elements. The Lebanese Armed Forces faces challenges in undertaking new tasks with UNIFIL in southern Lebanon due to a lack of capacity, including a shortage of barracks and equipment. As part of its efforts to help the Lebanese Armed Forces enhance its capabilities, UNIFIL donated a number of generator sets, spare parts and fuel tanks to the units deployed in the area of operations.

17. UNIFIL generally enjoyed full freedom of movement throughout its area of operations during the reporting period. Nevertheless, there were a few incidents when this freedom of movement was challenged by local civilians. On 29 November, a UNIFIL patrol was blocked by a group of civilians in Rshaf (Sector West), after the patrol inadvertently approached a mosque for women. The civilians became aggressive when the UNIFIL personnel refused to disembark from their vehicles and caused costly damage to the vehicles’ exteriors. On three separate occasions, on 31 October, 12 December and 6 January, there were incidents in Ayta ash-Sha’b, during which UNIFIL patrols were blocked by civilian vehicles and United Nations and personal equipment and items were taken forcibly from UNIFIL personnel. On the third occasion, UNIFIL personnel and visiting international journalists were held for an hour by the local civilians before being allowed to leave. On 9 February, a UNIFIL mine-clearance team was obstructed near Blida (Sector East) by a group of civilians. Following a scuffle with one of the peacekeepers, the civilians snatched a camera. Another incident involved an attempt by a civilian to rob UNIFIL personnel by pointing a shotgun at a UNIFIL vehicle.

18. In most cases, Lebanese Armed Forces personnel arrived quickly on the scene and played a critical role in bringing the incidents to an end. The Lebanese Armed Forces was able to retrieve some of the confiscated equipment and return it to UNIFIL. The Lebanese Armed Forces arrested the civilian who attempted to rob a UNIFIL patrol at gunpoint.

19. In another incident on 26 January, a logistics convoy taking UNIFIL civilian personnel from Beirut to the area of operations mistakenly left the designated route and, when it tried to turn back, was stopped by a group of individuals armed with assault rifles in the vicinity of Mazra’at al Urqub, outside of the area of operations. The armed individuals held the convoy for a short period, searched all UNIFIL personnel and took some electronic equipment, before escorting the convoy back to the designated route.

20. UNIFIL protested all incidents to the Lebanese Armed Forces and emphasized to the Lebanese authorities that primary responsibility for ensuring UNIFIL’s freedom of movement and the safety and security of its personnel lies with the Lebanese authorities. During the reporting period, UNIFIL continued to focus the attention of the Lebanese military judicial authorities on outstanding investigations into such incidents. UNIFIL’s Force Commander took up the matter with the Lebanese Armed Forces Commander General Jean Kahwaji and other senior Lebanese security officials. He also addressed local authorities, representatives of military, security and customs officials, as well as local members of the national parliament on the importance of full freedom of movement and the support of local communities to UNIFIL. All his interlocutors emphasized their strong support for UNIFIL, a point also underlined by President Sleiman during his visit to UNIFIL. UNIFIL and the Lebanese Armed Forces are currently working on a joint outreach initiative to further explain UNIFIL’s mandate and modus operandi to the local population.

21. Despite these isolated incidents, the attitude of the local population towards UNIFIL remained positive. Through its regular liaison activities with local communities, UNIFIL helped address issues with the potential to trigger tensions inside the area of operations. For example, UNIFIL actively facilitated and contributed to the construction of a water storage tank near the Blue Line in Blida (Sector East). As part of its activities aimed at building confidence with the local population, UNIFIL continued to provide community services such as medical, dental, veterinary and educational assistance, and implement quick impact projects. The Mission also coordinated with a wide range of civilian actors in planning and organizing joint outreach activities, including two trade fairs with local agricultural cooperatives and events on the occasion of the international days for peace, gender and security, children, and persons with disabilities.

22. UNIFIL continued to provide assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces in taking steps to establish an area free of armed personnel, assets and weapons between the Blue Line and the Litani River, other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL. This continues to be a long-term objective. The rocket incidents described earlier in this report demonstrated that weapons and hostile armed elements ready to use them remain, including in the UNIFIL area of operations.
23. The Government of Israel continued to allege that Hizbullah had been building up its military positions and units inside populated areas in southern Lebanon and that unauthorized weapons were being transferred into Lebanon, including into the UNIFIL area of operations. Where specific information is received regarding the illegal presence of armed personnel or weapons inside its area of operations, UNIFIL, in cooperation with the Lebanese Armed Forces, remains determined to act with all means available within its mandate and to the full extent provided for in its rules of engagement, as described in my previous reports. UNIFIL, however, does not proactively search for weapons in the south. It visits locations after receiving an alert and in coordination with the Lebanese Armed Forces. According to its mandate, UNIFIL cannot enter private property unless there is credible evidence of a violation of resolution 1701 (2006), including an imminent threat of hostile activity emanating from that specific location.

24. During the reporting period, UNIFIL observed unauthorized armed personnel and weapons in its area of operations in violation of resolution 1701 (2006) on a number of occasions. As described earlier, two rocket incidents and an explosion in the vicinity of Tayr Harfa occurred. UNIFIL is not in a position to determine whether the rockets discovered in the area of operations during the reporting period were smuggled into or already present in the area of operations. To date, UNIFIL has neither been provided with, nor has found, evidence of the unauthorized transfer of arms into its area of operations. The Lebanese Armed Forces command continued to state that it would act immediately to put a stop to any illegal activity in contravention of resolution 1701 (2006) and relevant Government decisions. Several items of unexploded ordnance from the 2006 war and before were discovered by civilians, the Lebanese Armed Forces and UNIFIL personnel. On one occasion, a damaged box of eight grenades with Hebrew inscriptions was discovered. In all cases, the Lebanese Armed Forces military specialists destroyed the ordnance.

25. A number of civilians were observed by UNIFIL carrying hunting weapons and engaged in hunting activities. On a few occasions, the Lebanese Armed Forces detained hunters and confiscated their weapons. In other cases, hunters quickly left the scene after being spotted by UNIFIL or Lebanese Armed Forces patrols. The Lebanese Armed Forces released a press statement on 24 November reaffirming the ban on hunting, particularly inside UNIFIL’s area of operations.

26. The UNIFIL Maritime Task Force continued to carry out its dual mandate of conducting maritime interdiction operations in the area of maritime operations and training Lebanese navy personnel. Since my last report, the Lebanese navy and customs officials have inspected 307 vessels in order to verify that there were no unauthorised arms or related materiel on board. The Maritime Task Force and Lebanese naval forces conducted 13 workshops on land and 20 at-sea training exercises. Lebanese navy personnel continued to develop further their capabilities through the conduct of eight on- the-job training exercises in maritime interdiction operations. There were some limitations to joint activities resulting from the lack of adequate Lebanese navy vessels that could endure the inclement weather conditions.
27. There have been a number of incidents along the line of buoys. UNIFIL observed Israel Defense Forces navy units dropping ten depth charges, firing three flares, and warning shots on ten occasions along the buoy line, reportedly to ward off Lebanese fishing boats in the vicinity of the line. UNIFIL has no mandate to monitor the line of buoys, which the Government of Israel installed unilaterally and which the Government of Lebanon does not recognize.

B. Security and liaison arrangements
28. UNIFIL’s liaison and coordination arrangements with the parties continued to function well and on several occasions both parties sought to further develop security and liaison arrangements with UNIFIL.

29. Daily interaction and liaison activities between UNIFIL and the Lebanese Armed Forces continued at its established high and effective level. UNIFIL also maintained effective liaison and coordination with the Israel Defense Forces although there has been no progress in the establishment of a liaison office in Tel Aviv.
30. The tripartite forum remained the key mechanism for addressing security and military operational issues related to the implementation of resolution 1701 (2006). In addition to discussing violations and incidents that have occurred between the parties, the tripartite forum is a confidence-building mechanism. It offers a platform through which UNIFIL can facilitate practical arrangements and localised understandings on the ground between the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Israel Defense Forces that would remove possible points of friction, defuse tension in potential flashpoints, stabilize the situation and build confidence.

31. Following consultations in the tripartite forum, UNIFIL, for example, cleared debris which was blocking water from running through a culvert close to the Blue Line and restored the flow of water to prevent the flooding of local farmland near Kafr Kila (Sector East). UNIFIL continues to work with the parties to put in place a more sustainable solution that will prevent future flooding of this area. UNIFIL is also exploring ways to relieve tensions in Bastarra, where local farmers cultivate olive trees south of the Blue Line, and build confidence along the Hasbani/Wazzani River, where local entrepreneurs have established a series of resorts on the Lebanese side of the river along the Blue Line, as previously reported.

32. Progress in visibly marking the Blue Line continued at a steady pace. As at 13 February, the total number of points agreed between the parties for marking stood at 257 out of a total of 473 points to be marked. UNIFIL thus far has cleared access to 234 points, and 201 have been measured. Some 163 Blue Line markers have been constructed, and 145 verified by both parties. In accordance with the recommendations of the strategic review, UNIFIL began exploratory bilateral discussions with the parties to address those points along the Blue Line that had been deemed contentious or problematic. In agreement with the Israel Defense Forces and the Lebanese Armed Forces, UNIFIL also started refurbishment works of the previously constructed Blue Line markers.

33. After the Israel Defense Forces and the Lebanese Armed Forces expressed their interest in exploring ways to address questions of maritime security with UNIFIL, as mentioned in my previous report, the Mission commenced preliminary bilateral consultations with the parties, with a view to ascertaining their respective positions and identifying potential commonalities. Based on these preliminary discussions, UNIFIL also began work on a draft proposal for practical maritime security arrangements that it plans to share with the parties for their comments.

34. In line with the priorities identified by the strategic review, UNIFIL continued to work closely with the Lebanese Armed Forces to increase its capacity through the strategic dialogue mechanism. The strategic dialogue remains a separate but integral component of the overall Lebanese Armed Forces capability development plan. UNIFIL, in close coordination with UNSCOL, continued exploring the possibility of establishing a coordination mechanism between UNIFIL, the Lebanese Armed Forces, the Government of Lebanon, and international donors, including troop-contributing countries and other Member States, to ensure a comprehensive approach and support to the Strategic Dialogue mechanism.

C. Disarming Armed Groups
35. Resolution 1701 (2006) calls for the full implementation of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, and of resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006), that require the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, so that there will be no weapons without the consent of the Government of Lebanon and no authority other than that of the Government of Lebanon.

36. The maintenance of arms by Hizbullah and other groups outside the control of the Lebanese State, in violation of resolutions 1559 (2004), 1680 (2006) and 1701 (2006) continues to restrict the State’s ability to exercise full sovereignty and authority over its territory. Hizbullah has continued to acknowledge openly that it maintains a substantial military capacity separate from that of the Lebanese State. It claims that its arms serve as a deterrent against potential aggression from Israel.

37. The further round of violence in Tripoli between 4 and 10 December and other violent incidents involving arms during the reporting period again demonstrated the threat posed by the proliferation of arms outside the control of the State. Whilst it was the sixth round of violence in Tripoli in 2012, the intensity of the violence and the heavy caliber weapons used marked a worrying escalation. Calm was restored after the Lebanese Armed Forces deployed heavily in the neighbourhoods affected and at strategic points around the city following the adoption on 9 December of a new security plan by the Higher Defence Council. Since then the situation has remained generally calm but on 18 January there was an incident involving a convoy carrying Faisal Karameh, the Minister for Youth, which left five people injured.

38. The Lebanese Armed Forces has continued to deploy as needed elsewhere to defuse political tensions, subdue violence and act against those responsible for it. On 12 November, the Lebanese Armed Forces deployed to contain an outbreak of violence in Sidon after a clash between Hizbullah supporters and followers of Sheikh Ahmad el Assir left three dead and at least four wounded. The Lebanese Armed Forces has sustained casualties and losses in its efforts to maintain law and order, including on 1 February when two Lebanese soldiers were killed in a raid to arrest a wanted militant in Arsal. The attack on Lebanese soldiers was broadly condemned and efforts to secure the arrest of those responsible continue.

39. President Sleiman remained strongly committed to the resumption of the National Dialogue, which has not met since 20 September 2012. President Sleiman had then submitted a paper setting out an initial vision for a comprehensive national defence strategy centred on the principle of the exclusive right of the Lebanese Armed Forces to the use of force and frameworks and mechanisms for control and use of Hizbullah’s arms. The 14 March leadership has declined to participate in the meetings since the 19 October 2012 assassination of General Wissam al-Hassan.

40. There has been no progress on the dismantling of military bases maintained by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) and Fatah al-Intifada. In 2006, the National Dialogue decided that these bases should be dismantled and the United Nations has repeatedly supported this call. The existence of these bases continues to compromise Lebanese sovereignty and impede the ability of the State to monitor effectively and control parts of the Lebanese-Syrian border.
41. In the Ain El Helweh Palestinian refugee camp there were heightened tensions on 23 January and again from 18 to 19 February between groups respectively loyal to the regime and the opposition in Syria. The clashes were relatively limited, and contained by the Palestinian security committee in the camp. Otherwise the situation in the Palestinian refugee camps was generally quiet. On 22 January, the Lebanese Government undertook to fund the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee for three years.

D. Arms Embargo and Border Control
42. In resolution 1701 (2006), the Security Council decided that all States were to prevent the sale and the supply of arms and related materiel to entities or individuals in Lebanon by their nationals, or from their territories, or using their flag vessels or aircraft. Resolution 1701 (2006) also calls upon the Government of Lebanon to secure its borders and other entry points so as to prevent the entry into Lebanon without its consent of arms and related materiel.

43. Israeli Government representatives consistently have alleged that there are significant, ongoing arms transfers to Hizbullah across the Lebanese-Syrian border. The United Nations takes these allegations seriously but is not in a position to independently verify them. Following the Israeli elections in January 2013, members of the Israeli Government publicly stated that the Syrian Government intended to transfer advanced weapons systems to Hizbullah and potentially also non-conventional weapons. Israeli Government Ministers warned that such arms transfers would constitute a significant threat and that Israel would act to prevent them from taking place. Senior representatives of Hizbullah maintained their position that they have no intention of acquiring chemical weapons.

44. In a letter dated 31 January 2013 (S/2013/70), the Permanent Representative of Syria reported that on 30 January, Israeli aircraft violated the airspace of Syria and proceeded to bombard a scientific research centre located near Damascus. The letter rejected media reports asserting that the aircraft had targeted a convoy that was heading from Syria to Lebanon. While the United Nations does not have details of and is not in a position to independently verify what has occurred, I noted with grave concern the reported incident and called on all concerned to prevent tensions or their escalation in the region, and to strictly abide by international law, in particular in respect of territorial integrity and sovereignty of all countries in the region.

45. The Lebanese Armed Forces continued its efforts to counter smuggling from Lebanon into Syria. There were recurrent incidents of cross-border fire and Syrian armed forces fired small arms and heavier weapons into Lebanon and on at least three occasions an exchange of fire was initiated from Lebanese territory. On 25 December a Lebanese child was killed by small arms fire into Lebanon from across the border. Between 23 and 24 February, at least two Lebanese men were killed by fire from Syria, prompting President Sleiman to protest and demand the cessation of firing and shelling towards Lebanon and stress the need for continued commitment to Lebanon’s policy of neutrality. The movement of arms and fighters across the Lebanese-Syrian border continued. On 1 November, a Syrian national was killed and a number of Lebanese security personnel were injured in a firefight after a vehicle attempted to enter Lebanon illegally near the town of Arsal. On 30 November, a group of 13 Lebanese, three Syrians and one Palestinian fighters was reportedly killed by Syrian regime forces at Tal Kalakh in Syria after they had crossed from Lebanon. On 17 February, there were reports of heavy cross- border fire in the northern Beqa'a linked to fighting in nearby villages in Syria. There were further reports of Hizbullah fighters being killed apparently in fighting in Syria, at that time and previously.

46. The movement of armed groups and weapons across the Lebanese-Syrian border and the recurrent cross-border incidents again highlighted the need for the Lebanese security forces to have greater means at their disposal to manage and control the border. Donors announced additional assistance for the Lebanese authorities in this regard, some of it dedicated to continuing long-term efforts to strengthen and integrate border management involving all of the relevant branches of the Lebanese security forces. The Lebanese Armed Forces has continued to work on a US$ 1.6 billion plan to increase its capacity and capabilities. The Lebanese Armed Forces capability development plan has been presented within the Government at a high level and is expected to be presented formally to donors soon. It looks to national and international funding to meet what are pressing needs.

47. There was a substantial rise in the Syrian refugee population in Lebanon during the reporting period, including after the intense fighting around Damascus in December. Of the 305,000 refugees officially receiving assistance in Lebanon, 78 per cent are estimated to be women and children. There was a notable increase in the presence of refugees south of the Litani River, with some 4,200 refugees registered in the area. UNHCR is planning to open a registration office in Tyre in the coming weeks. In all areas, winter conditions made shelter a priority, and the shortfall in available assistance noted in my previous report became acute.

48. The Government of Lebanon unveiled on 3 December 2012 a plan to address the needs of Syrian refugees. It resisted calls to close the border to further influxes of Syrian refugees. Also in December the United Nations submitted a revised regional plan which included an appeal for $267 million for Lebanon. I chaired the International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria on 30 January in Kuwait at which donors pledged over $1.5 billion to support Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries, including Lebanon, and those displaced by the conflict inside Syria. In Lebanon, the United Nations humanitarian presence grew rapidly on the ground and intensive efforts were made to accelerate registration.

49. Palestinian refugees have continued to seek shelter in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon after their camps in Syria came under attack. There was a large influx of Palestinians into Lebanon between 17 and 20 December, including after the intense fighting in the Palestinian-populated Yarmouk area of Damascus. As of 25 February, some 31,500 Palestinians from Syria had approached UNRWA in Lebanon, including 5,200 Palestinian refugees from Syria who recently arrived south of the Litani River. UNRWA is seeking to provide Palestinian refugees from Syria with assistance in cooperation with non-governmental organizations.

E. Landmines and cluster bombs
50. The Lebanon Mine Action Centre, a unit of the Lebanese Armed Forces, is the national authority for mine action in Lebanon with responsibility for the management of all humanitarian clearance and mine action data. The United Nations Mine Action Support Team is a United Nations Mine Action Services (UNMAS) programme implemented in support of UNIFIL demining activities along the Blue Line through the provision of training to contingents, and validation and quality assurance monitoring. Eight military manual clearance teams, three military explosives ordnance disposal teams and one military mechanical clearance team are currently deployed in the UNIFIL area of operations. Over 809.94 m2 of lanes providing access to Blue Line points were cleared during the reporting period, 10 anti-personnel mines and one unexploded ordnance were found and demolished, two Blue Line points were cleared and the clearance on two other Blue Line points started. Meanwhile, UNMAS continued to conduct training for UNIFIL military and civilian personnel, quality assurance visits to operational sites and demonstrations.

F. Delineation of Borders
51. There was again no progress towards delineating and demarcating the Syrian- Lebanese border, including in areas where it is uncertain or disputed, as called for in Security Council resolutions 1680 (2006) and 1701 (2006). Cross-border violence as a result of the Syrian crisis again highlighted the importance of delineation and demarcation of the borders between Lebanon and Syria as soon as practicable.

52. There has also been no progress on the issue of the Shab’a Farms. Neither Syria nor Israel has reacted to the provisional definition of that area contained in my 30 October 2007 report on the implementation of resolution 1701 (2006) (S/2007/641).

III. Security and safety of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon
53. UNIFIL and the Lebanese authorities continued to cooperate closely to ensure the safety and security of all UNIFIL personnel. Complementing the measures taken by the Government of Lebanon, UNIFIL continued to apply its own risk mitigating measures. UNIFIL continuously reviewed its security plans and risk mitigation measures, and carried out safety awareness training for its personnel. Physical infrastructure and equipment upgrades of UNIFIL headquarters are continuing to ensure force protection.

54. UNIFIL continued to observe proceedings in the Lebanese military court against suspects involved in cases of serious attacks, actual or planned, against UNIFIL peacekeepers, the latest of which took place in 2011. Appeal court hearings, concerning sentences handed down in October 2012 in the case of an intended attack against UNIFIL in 2008, were postponed again until July 2013 for procedural reasons.

IV. Deployment of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon
55. As at 13 February 2013, the total military strength of UNIFIL was 10,826, including 383 women. UNIFIL has 337 international and 655 national civilian staff members, of whom 101 and 164, respectively, are women. UNIFIL is also supported by 51 United Nations Truce Supervision Organization military observers of the Observer Group Lebanon, of whom one is a woman.

56. Since my last report, Spain reduced its contribution of troops to UNIFIL by some 25 per cent to 701 and announced a further reduction by May 2013. In the course of the rightsizing of some UNIFIL units pursuant to the recommendations of the recent Military Capability Study, Indonesia reduced its deployment from 1,446 to 1,188 troops. Meanwhile, Serbia has deployed an infantry platoon within the Spanish battalion under a bilateral agreement with Spain.

57. The current composition of the Maritime Task Force (MTF) is seven vessels (three frigates, one corvette and three fast patrol boats) and two helicopters. The new Brazilian flagship arrived on 13 January 2013. UNIFIL is awaiting the arrival of a new Indonesian vessel expected in April, which will bring the total number of MTF vessels back to the requirement of eight.

V. Observations
58. I welcome the continuing calm in the UNIFIL area of operations and along the Blue Line. I commend the parties for preserving stability in the area amidst the crisis in Syria and for demonstrating strong commitment to safeguarding the cessation of hostilities. Nevertheless, there were a few incidents that had the potential to spark a serious escalation. I urge both parties to continue working with UNIFIL to maintain the current calm, to minimize and halt violations, look for practical localized solutions and build on what has been achieved by strengthening the liaison and coordination arrangements between them.

59. I remain concerned at the lack of progress towards achieving a permanent ceasefire and long-term solution to the conflict, as envisaged in resolution 1701 (2006). In line with the requirements for the full implementation of resolution 1701 (2006), I hope that the parties will move from the current fragile cessation of hostilities and find that it is in their mutual interest to work towards achieving a permanent ceasefire and long-term solution to the conflict. I encourage all concerned to recommit to that goal and to work with my Special Coordinator and UNIFIL to identify ways forward in this regard.

60. Major obligations under the resolution are still outstanding and require action by both parties. I am concerned that there are still unauthorized weapons in the UNIFIL area of operations, in contravention of the resolution, as evidenced during the reporting period by the attempt to launch rockets from the area of operations. The explosion in the vicinity of Tayr Harfa during the period also raises concern. The Lebanese authorities have the primary responsibility to ensure that there are no unauthorized armed personnel, assets or weapons in the area. In this context, I also call on both parties to cooperate fully with UNIFIL investigations to help ascertain the facts of these incidents and violations, by facilitating access to people and places as well as to relevant information in their possession.

61. I remain concerned that violations of Lebanese airspace continue to be committed almost daily by Israel. The use of fighter jets and attack helicopters flying at low altitude during the reporting period raised particular concern. I call again on the Government of Israel to cease all overflights of Lebanese territory and Lebanese territorial waters. The continuing occupation of northern Ghajar and an adjacent area north of the Blue Line by the Israel Defense Forces also represents an ongoing violation of resolution 1701 (2006). Israel has an obligation to withdraw its armed forces from the area, in accordance with resolution 1701 (2006).

62. The conflict in Syria continues to pose serious challenges for the security and stability of Lebanon. The lack of progress in delineating and demarcating the Lebanese- Syrian border is no justification for the serious and repeated violations of Lebanese territorial integrity, which have caused death, injury and material damage to property. I call upon the Government of Syria to cease all violations of the border and to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Lebanon in accordance with Security Council resolutions 1559 (2004), 1680 (2006) and 1701 (2006).

63. The reported involvement of certain Lebanese elements in the conflict in Syria is contrary to Lebanon’s policy of disassociation. I note with grave concern reports of the Tal Kalakh incident involving Lebanese nationals and of further deaths of Hizbullah members fighting inside Syria. The dangers for Lebanon of such involvement and indeed of continued cross-border arms smuggling are obvious. I call upon all Lebanese political leaders to act to ensure that Lebanon remains neutral in respect of external conflicts consistent with their commitment in the Baabda Declaration.

64. I remain concerned about the political stalemate that has continued to prevail in the wake of the assassination of General Wissam al-Hassan on 19 October 2012. I commend the leadership of President Sleiman and his efforts to minimize political tensions and ensure continued stability in Lebanon in the face of the protracted conflict in Syria. I am concerned that disagreements over the electoral law have over-shadowed necessary preparations for the elections. I encourage all parties in Lebanon to work to ensure that elections take place on a consensual basis within the legal and constitutional timeframe. The United Nations continues to provide technical support to those responsible for preparing the elections. I hope that arrangements agreed will include measures to enhance the representation of women. I emphasize the importance of free, fair and credible elections in a timely fashion for Lebanon’s stability and continued political advancement.

65. The maintenance of arms by Hizbullah and other groups outside the control of the State continues to pose a threat to Lebanese sovereignty and stability, and stands in contradiction to the country’s obligations under resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1701 (2006). I regret the inability of Lebanon’s leaders to meet within the framework of the National Dialogue during the reporting period to discuss this and other issues and encourage all concerned to heed the President’s call for the resumption of dialogue as soon as possible. I remain of the view that the goal of ensuring that there are no weapons outside the control of the State can only be achieved through a Lebanese-led political process which has this as its aim and believe that the National Dialogue remains the best mechanism to achieve it. In this context I reiterate my call for the implementation of earlier decisions of the National Dialogue, specifically those related to the disarmament of non-Lebanese groups and the dismantling of the PFLP-GC and Fatah al-Intifada military bases.

66. I welcome the continued efforts of the Lebanese security forces to maintain stability across the country. It is important that they continue to receive needed backing from across the political spectrum for their work and that redoubled efforts are made to address sources of repeated violence, such as that which occurred in Tripoli. The recurrence of violent incidents underlines the extent to which Lebanon needs to take further concrete steps to counter the prevalence of weapons outside the authority of the State, and to ensure the effective implementation of resolution 1701 (2006). I remind all Member States of their obligations under resolution 1701 (2006) to prevent the sale or supply of arms and related materiel of all types to any entity or individual in Lebanon except those authorized by the Government of Lebanon. I call on the Lebanese authorities to hold accountable those involved in the violent incidents noted in this and previous reports consistent with the extension of control of the Government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory as called for in resolution 1701 (2006). I also reiterate the Security Council’s call for the perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of the assassination of General Wissam al Hassan to be brought to justice, as well as those involved in the attempted assassination of political figures last year. It is unacceptable that political leaders in Lebanon should continue to have reason to fear for their lives. Steps must be taken to allay such fears.

67. I take this opportunity to welcome the unity shown by leaders in the Palestinian camps in Lebanon in working together, and with the Lebanese authorities, to maintain order against the backdrop of the crisis in Syria. I also welcome the decision of the Lebanese Government to continue to support the Lebanese Palestinian Dialogue Committee for a further three-year period. There is an urgent need to improve the living conditions of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, without prejudice to the resolution of the refugee question in the context of a comprehensive peace settlement. The influx of several thousand additional Palestinian refugees displaced from Syria into the already extremely cramped camps in Lebanon has imposed a heavy new burden on the inhabitants and on UNRWA’s efforts to assist them. I strongly urge Member States to further support UNRWA’s work given the heavy additional pressures on its resources.

68. I pay tribute to the Government and people of Lebanon for their hosting of and assistance to the Syrian refugees and welcome the commitment of the Lebanese Government to keep its borders open to allow those displaced by the conflict in Syria to seek refuge in Lebanon. The rate at which new refugees have crossed into Lebanon over the last two reporting periods has accelerated markedly and creates increasing challenges within Lebanon. I call on the international community to recognize the appeals of the Lebanese leadership in this regard, and provide assistance accordingly. Funds pledged at the International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria in Kuwait on 30 January should help to alleviate the burden on the Lebanese Government and people and I thank all of those who responded so generously to the appeals there. Quick delivery of these pledges is a key priority now if the suffering of the refugees is to be alleviated and if Lebanon is to sustain its capacity to address increased numbers of refugees at the current rates of influx. I therefore urge the Government to continue to plan accordingly. The United Nations will continue to stand by Lebanon in addressing this challenge until such time as the refugees are able to return to their homes.

69. I am concerned about incidents restricting UNIFIL’s freedom of movement and instances of aggressive behaviour towards UNIFIL personnel. While the number of incidents is marginal relative to the overall number of operational activities conducted by UNIFIL, some of these incidents are in violation of resolutions 1701 (2006) and 1773 (2007) and have the potential to escalate and compromise UNIFIL operations. UNIFIL’s freedom of movement is integral to the effective implementation of its mandate and the Lebanese authorities are primarily responsible for ensuring that UNIFIL can operate unhindered to this end.

70. The demands on the Lebanese Armed Forces during this reporting period have been heavy – in the south of the country alongside UNIFIL; along the border with Syria; and in terms of internal security – all against the background of intense regional turbulence and consequent political and sectarian tensions inside Lebanon. It is encouraging that the Lebanese Armed Forces has for the first time, at the prompting of the Lebanese Government, sought to prioritize strategically its immediate needs in light of these multiple challenges, including through the elaboration of the plan to enhance its capabilities.

71. I commend the Lebanese Armed Forces for their strong cooperation with UNIFIL despite their multiple security responsibilities across Lebanon and particularly during periods of heightened tensions. I am grateful to those countries that continue to provide critical assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces and encourage the international community to demonstrate further its commitment to building the capacity of the Lebanese Armed Forces, including the Navy. In this context, it is imperative that UNIFIL and the Lebanese Armed Forces remain focused on the strategic dialogue and that the process receives strong support from all national and international stakeholders.

72. I welcome the work done on the plan to enhance the capabilities of the Lebanese Armed Forces and the efforts made to ensure that it reflects the requirements and objectives of the strategic dialogue. I encourage both the Government of Lebanon and the international community to be forthcoming in their support to the plan when it is finalized. I further stand ready to assist the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Government of Lebanon as they seek to carry forward their Lebanese Armed Forces capability development plan. The United Nations will also continue to support the efforts of the Lebanese security agencies, in collaboration with donors, to improve integrated border management.

73. Regrettably no progress has been made with regard to the Shab’a Farms area in accordance with paragraph 10 of resolution 1701 (2006). I call, once again, on Syria and Israel to submit their responses to the provisional definition of the Shab’a Farms area that I provided in October 2007 (S/2007/641).

74. The focus on opportunities for oil and gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean remained high during the reporting period, including on the potential benefits of exploitation of offshore resources for both Israel and Lebanon. I am hopeful that both countries can make progress on the delimitation of their respective maritime exclusive economic zones and to undertake the necessary preparations for the exploration and exploitation of their resources in a manner that does not give rise to tensions. The United Nations stands ready to assist in this matter should both parties request it.

75. The Lebanese people have continued to show great resilience against the backdrop of regional developments and threats, in particular those relating to the crisis in Syria. They have shown generosity in receiving so many of those fleeing from that conflict. They are now preparing for important elections. The arrangements set in place by resolution 1701 (2006) are responsible in significant part for the stability, albeit fragile, that makes all of this possible. These arrangements are also responsible for the unprecedented calm that has continued to prevail across the Blue Line between Lebanon and Israel since 2006. Longer term security and stability call for an end to conflict in the region, including progress towards a just, lasting and comprehensive peace. Continued commitment and efforts by the Governments of Lebanon and Israel to the full implementation of resolution 1701 (2006) will remain vital through the present challenging period.

76. I wish to express my appreciation to all countries contributing troops and equipment to UNIFIL. I also commend the UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander and the military and the civilian personnel of UNIFIL, as well as the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon and the staff of his Office, all of whom continue to play a vital role in helping to promote stability along the Blue Line and in Lebanon.

Follow me on Twitter @NabilAbiSaab


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