UN Security Council extends Lebanon mission and asks it to provide aid to army

Economic collapse weighs on Lebanese soldiers’ morale and the army’s capabilities

Soldiers form the Italian contingent in the UNIFIL patrol the blue line in Lebanon's southern border town of Naqura on the border with Israel, south of Beirut, on February 24, 2018.
The UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon has made efforts to prevent tension between Lebanon and Israel from escalating into a conflict, warning of continued escalation on the backdrop of oil exploration and construction of a barrier on the border. / AFP PHOTO / JOSEPH EID

The UN Security Council on Monday extended the mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon by a year and asked it to provide "non-lethal material” to the Lebanese army, the mission said.

The mission, also known as Unifil, may donate food, fuel and medicine to the Lebanese army for “the first time" as severe shortages and inflation hamper the military, the council decision said.

Lebanon’s army chief had warned that economic collapse was weighing on soldiers’ morale and the army’s capabilities, sparking fears that one of Lebanon's foremost state institutions may crumble.

The UN Security Council “strongly urges further and increased international support for the Lebanese Armed Forces", the mission said.

The council asked the mission to take “temporary and special measures” to support the army with necessities and logistics for six months.

The UN mission has guarded the country’s southern border since 1978, when Israel first invaded Lebanon. It stayed in Lebanon after the withdrawal of Israeli troops in 2000.

The two countries have not fought since 2006 but remain technically at war and do not have diplomatic ties.

The Lebanese army is one of the last unifying state institutions in a country fragmented along sectarian lines and where the Iran-backed Hezbollah militia holds sway.

But armed forces have been suffering from the economic crisis that has struck Lebanon since late 2019.

The Lebanese pound lost more than 90 per cent of its value, cutting salaries, including those of army personnel.

Access to medication, fuel and other subsidised goods imported in scarce dollars has been severely limited for the past year.

Army chief Joseph Aoun said in a rare public address in March that without help soldiers would “go hungry”.

His warning raised concerns among Lebanon’s allies that the army may be stretched too thin, with paramilitary groups such as Iran-backed Hezbollah and militant groups operating in neighbouring Syria.

The Lebanese army had said it removed meat from its menu because it could no longer afford it.

Updated: August 30th 2021, 7:52 PM