Lebanon: exclusive interview with UNIFIL spokesperson, Andrea Tenenti


A few days ago we reached Dr. remotely. Andrea Tenenti, UNIFIL spokesperson and in-depth knowledge of the Lebanese-Israeli reality, who updated us on the latest news at the turn of the blue line between Israel and Lebanon.

Are there any updates regarding the clash between Israel and Hezbollah? Is Israel's announced desire to invade Lebanon also a remote hypothesis?

The situation has certainly remained and is still very tense from October to now, so not too many things have changed. What we were able to observe at the beginning, but also now, apart from some moments of attacks outside the area of ​​operation, is that 80% of these "firefights" (the United Nations have defined them as and not "hostility" or "conflict" at the moment) occur in the area close to the Blue Line, the demarcation line of the withdrawal of Israeli forces in 2000. There have been moments of more intense firefights in the past months and even the past weeks. In the last one a little less. Let's say that we still don't see a desire to widen the conflict.

The rhetoric is certainly very high, but there is always a difference between words and reality. What we see these days is that UNIFIL, through its commander, is constantly used in everyday life to be able to exchange messages from one side to the other given that both Lebanon and Israel do not have formal relations: they have been at war for always and there is no established boundary.

The mission is the only body that still manages to communicate with both sides (when I talk about both sides I mean the Lebanese army or the Lebanese authorities and the Israeli army) and as long as this communication exists, we see that there is no 'there is a real desire to broaden the conflict.

We must also underline that when we talk to the Lebanese side we are not talking to Hezbollah, since the mission does not have the authority to interact with political parties. Logically, the authorities and the Lebanese army are the ones who carry Hezbollah's message through us and it is communicated to the mission. Let's say, therefore, that the possibility of a miscalculation is always around the corner and this is very difficult to predict. At the moment, however, 80% of firefights remain very localized 5-6 km from the blue line, however negotiations are not progressing.

We have read in recent days about Amal's withdrawal from the conflict. What can you tell us about it?

Let's say that these are only media reports therefore, no one from the Amal movement formally reported this news, it was only sources close to Amal. As for the mission in general, Amal never participated in the conflict and they never said they were part of it.

As for the more military aspect along the Blue Line, Are there any clashes with the local population and Israelis worthy of note?

In this period, along the blue line, most of the villages that are close to the demarcation line have been heavily damaged. Some more than others, such as Ayta el Chaeb, Adshit, Maroun el Ras, many of which were almost razed to the ground. This logically led not only to material damage but also to the killing of civilians. Hezbollah reported the loss of over 250-280 fighters, but there were also a high number of civilian casualties. This forced a large part of the population to leave their homes to go to other parts of the country. It is a common result on both sides, in northern Israel and also in southern Lebanon.

The country's economy, which was already in precarious conditions, is suffering great damage. We now find ourselves in a situation that will be very difficult to recover, especially in the territories that were used for agriculture by the population of southern Lebanon. The climate is serious, there have been several victims and, as mentioned, after five months of conflict there is no solution in sight.

Can you tell us something about the other two missions1 of the United Nations present in the region?

All missions in the area are facing repercussions for the implementation of their mandate.

As regards UNIFIL resolution 1701, it is also experiencing difficult times but its principles still remain valid. Let's say that both in the Security Council and in both parties there is a strong desire for the implementation of 1701 perhaps more now than before and the same thing goes for the other two missions in the region.

It is important that the various political interlocutors, including at an international level, are moving towards finding a solution. Never before have there been so many political authorities in this part of the world.

We, as a mission, can open a window of opportunity between the parties to seek solutions, but we cannot replace political dialogue. We are here to implement a mandate like all other missions. We will see the results of the negotiations. UNIFIL is here to implement any decision of the international community.

We remember the last event on March 30th which involved three UN observers from the OGL (Lebanon Observers Group) in Rmeish in southern Lebanon.