January 13, 2022 Special Dispatch No. 9721

Lebanese Journalists: Hizbullah Behind Attacks By South Lebanon Residents On UNIFIL Forces

January 13, 2022
Lebanon | Special Dispatch No. 9721

In the last few weeks, there were two incidents in which residents of South Lebanon attacked UNIFIL forces that are deployed in the area in keeping with UN Security Council Resolution 1701. On December 22, 2021, locals in the town of Shaqra clashed with a UNIFIL patrol that was photographing buildings in the town.[1] Several UNIFIL troops were injured and some of their vehicles were damaged before Lebanese army forces managed to extricate them from the town.[2] This incident occurred one day after UN Secretary-General António Guterres made a visit to Lebanon, on which he called to guarantee UNIFIL's freedom of movement and urged Hizbullah to become " a purely political party, like any other political force in the country," i.e., to surrender its weapons.[3]  Some two weeks later, on January 4, 2022, a similar incident occurred when residents of the village of Bint Jbeil attacked UNIFIL troops, again on the grounds that they were taking pictures of their homes.

The Al-Akhbar daily, with is close to Hizbullah, blamed both incidents on the UNIFIL forces. Following the first incident, it claimed that the UNIFIL troops had deliberately hurt two young men after locals asked them what they were doing.[4] The daily also claimed that, on both occasions, UNIFIL had violated Resolution 1701 by entering the localities without a Lebanese army escort. It added that UNIFIL had instigated the incidents as part of its bid to change the rules of engagement and increase its freedom of movement.[5]

Conversely, Candice Ardell, deputy director of UNIFIL's media office, condemned the attacks on the peacekeeping forces, calling them a violation of the Lebanese and international laws, which guarantee UNIFIL freedom of movement throughout its area of operation as defined by Resolution 1701. She denied that UNIFIL had taken pictures in Bint Jbeil, calling this "misinformation" and clarifying that the troops were on their way to a regular meeting with Lebanese army officers. She implied that the incidents had been deliberately instigated by Hizbullah, condemning "those who manipulate the residents of the area to their own ends", and urged   the Lebanese authorities to prosecute those responsible for the attacks.[6] In an interview with the Lebanese daily Al-Nahar, Ardell again condemned the attacks, calling them a crime. Denying Al-Akhbar's claims that UNIFIL was violating the terms of Resolution 1701, she demanded "to respect UNIFIL's authorities and its freedom of movement," and said that this disinformation about the peacekeeping forces was "destructive, dangerous, and a threat to security and stability."[7]  

Lebanon's foreign ministry likewise condemned the incidents, clarifying that aggression towards UNIFIL forces was unacceptable and that their safety must be ensured.[8]  Hizbullah, for its part, did not respond to the events.

It should be noted that incidents of this sort occur periodically in South Lebanon. According to opponents of Hizbullah, they are instigated by this organization – with the aid of the local population, which is under its influence – as a hostile messages from the organization and its patron Iran to the UN and to the West in general.[9] This time, too, several Lebanese journalists wrote that the attacks on UNIFIL were meant to convey a warning by Hizbullah to UNIFIL itself, and to the UN, the U.S. and other international elements, that Hizbullah is the decision-maker in Lebanon, and certainly in the South. Some assessed that the incidents came in response to Guterres' visit to Lebanon, and reflect apprehension on Hizbullah's part regarding possible intentions of the UN and other international elements to expand UNIFIL's powers in Lebanon.  One journalist stated that the incidents were also a message from Hizbullah to the Lebanese army, warning it not to help UNIFIL or facilitate its activity. 

This report reviews statements and articles by anti-Hizbullah Lebanese journalists who condemned the aggression towards UNIFIL and accused Hizbullah of being behind it.

Shi'ite Lebanese Journalist Who Opposes Hizbullah: The Incident Was A Message From Hizbullah, Which Wants To Curb UNIFIL's Authority

Following the December 22 clash between the UNIFIL patrol and locals in the town of Shaqra, 'Ali Al-Amin, a Shi'ite Lebanese journalist and the editor of the Al-Janoubia website, known as a fierce critic of Hizbullah, wrote: "The attacks on UNIFIL are a 'show of force' by Hizbullah against the international forces, in light of the growing calls to implement the international resolutions and in light of the American pressure to adjust UNIFIL's mandate and expand its mission.  This happens every year ahead of the [UN Security Council's]  renewal of UNIFIL's mandate in August. These incidents were a message by Hizbullah, that the existing situation must be maintained. The organization wants [these] international forces to be limited in their movement, based on the existing situation [on the ground], and seeks to keep them from acting on the force of the international resolutions… This is a new balance [of power] that Hizbullah is imposing in order to limit the mission of the international [forces] and keep them from expanding their current mission…"  

Al-Amin stated further that "Hizbullah's message is not a reflection of its actual power, [but] of its discomfort in light of the situation in the region, the talk about Syria, the fact that the international negotiations [with Iran in Vienna] include the issue of Hizbullah's expansion [in other countries], and the increasing talk about the need to implement the international resolutions, to delineate the border [with Israel], etc…." Amin also assessed that the attack on the UNIFIL forces in Shaqra had been planned in advance: "Hizbullah," he wrote, "wanted photos and videos [of the incident] to be spread, so that the UN and the international community would get the message, that South [Lebanon] operates according to [Hizbullah's] perceptions." [10] 

Lebanese Journalist: Hizbullah Wanted To Inform The UN That It Is The Boss In Lebanon, And Warn The Lebanese Army Not To Cooperate With UNIFIL

Journalist Walid Choucair, a columnist for the Nida Al-Watan paper, identified with the March 14 Forces, likewise wrote that the clash with UNIFIL was intended to convey to the UN, and even more than so the U.S., that Hizbullah is the boss in Lebanon and especially in the South, and also to warn the Lebanese army not to make it too easy for UNIFIL to carry out its mission.  He wrote: "A few hours after [UN Secretary-General] Guterres ended his visit to Lebanon – a visit that indicated that the involvement of international elements in handling the crisis in Lebanon… is only growing – he received news about a clash between 'residents' and a UNIFIL patrol in the southern town of Shaqra, in which [locals] pelted the [UNIFIL] patrol vehicles with stones and destroyed some of them. This was one of a series of [similar] incidents [in the past year], which the UN is likely to mention in its biannual report…

"'Residents' is the term Hizbullah likes to use when referring to incidents of this sort. It takes advantage of the anger felt by the villagers [in South Lebanon] towards the international forces when they try to search some building or neighborhood in order to make sure that they do not house a weapons or ammunition depot or to determine the veracity of intelligence they have received to this effect… It is difficult to rule out the assumption that, [with this incident], Hizbullah meant to convey a message to the UN and the countries behind it, that the arrival of the organization's official [i.e., Guterres] in the country to oversee the international handling of the Lebanese crisis is subject to the approval of the influential group in Lebanon [i.e., Hizbullah], and not to the approval of the [country's] political leadership,  with whom he met.

"That is, the message went beyond the issue of UNIFIL's freedom of movement in its area of operation. [Hizbullah's] message is part of the campaign it is waging against 'the international involvement' in Lebanon, and especially against the Americans, who it says  are trying to incite against the resistance in order to weaken it in the upcoming parliamentary elections. [According to Hizbullah, they do this] by supporting civil society organizations through which they deliver aid to the Lebanese. [Hizbullah's] goal is to clarify to these elements that 'we [Hizbullah] are the ones who decide' on freedom of movement in South Lebanon, and more importantly, freedom of movement throughout [the country] is under our supervision…

"The message is also directed at the Lebanese army, even though it did not escort the UNIFIL patrol [that was attacked in this incident]. The army has begun receiving monthly aid from UNIFIL in the form of fuel, medical supplies and food for 27,000 soldiers and officers, in accordance with the UN Security Council resolution from August [2021], which renewed [the mandate] of the international forces for another year. By means of the incident in Shaqra, the 'residents' prevented any possibility of the army taking the issue of UNIFIL's 'freedom of movement' too lightly."[11]

The incident in Shaqra (Source: Al-Akhbar, Lebanon, December 22, 2021)

Lebanese Journalist: Most Lebanese Support UNIFIL And Prefer Peace Over War In The Service Of Iran And Syria

In his column in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Lebanese journalist and political analyst Hazem Saghieh likewise accused Hizbullah of instigating the clashes with UNIFIL in order to prove that it is the boss in South Lebanon. He wrote that in Lebanon there are two opposite views: one is the view of most Lebanese, who support UNIFIL and wish to avoid conflicts, and the other is the view of Hizbullah, which wants to keep the option of conflict open in order to further the interests of Iran and Syria. The following are excerpts from his column, as it appeared in the daily's English edition:

"Would we be exaggerating if we said that the United Nation Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is at the top of the long list of things Hezbollah hates?

"We’ll delay answering this question to offer a reminder of what happened a few days ago in the border town of Shaqra in South Lebanon: a clash between the 'local community,' i.e., Hezbollah supporters, and the 'international forces' (Finnish according to one narrative and Irish according to another).

"Here, we could drown ourselves in endless minutiae. However, one thing is impossible to believe; Hezbollah and its followers’ claim: the 'international forces' engaged in 'dubious activity,' and an armored vehicle 'intentionally' ran over two youths from the 'local community.'

"Upon hearing this narrative, one is surprised by the idea that international soldiers, be they Finnish or Irish, had harassed the residents of a safe and peaceful village in South Lebanon. It sounds like something that requires a lot of cinematic imagination.

"Like many others, we find that it is most probable that the secret lies elsewhere: it lies first in United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s visit to the 'international forces' in the South two days before the incident and the criticism he was reported as directing at Hezbollah, like his demand that it turns into a political party. Guterres was told, through the Shaqra incident, that Hezbollah is in charge in the South, not the United Nations. Secondly, it lies in the ongoing battle over UNIFIL’s powers, which allow it to play its role. This requires freedom of movement and the mandate to install cameras to ensure compliance with UN Resolution 1701. Guterres himself had also raised the need to respect those powers.

"In other words, and this is the bottom line: the tension, with its political underpinnings that go beyond the details, is between a faction that wants to avert any armed conflict, to make it impossible if it can, and another that wants to keep the option [of conflict] open. Indeed, the latter wants conflict to be easy to stir up: if it is in the interest of Tehran or Damascus, Lebanon will be dragged into the fight with no constraints or parameters imposed by the 'international forces'…

"And so, we are facing a new round of that old battle between two opposing views: one that does not want Lebanon to be dragged into wars, and another that wants nothing but that for the country…

"The 'international forces' deter this project. They do not want Lebanon to be a country at war or on the brink of war every so often. They want to keep the peace in our country, peace protected by a UN resolution. The last thing on their minds is recruiting youths from Ireland and Finland to bring them to Lebanon so they can attack innocent inhabitants of Shaqra…

"Given that we are living in a time when the hostility of sects for one another is increasing, it is not difficult to conceive of youths from strange distant countries, who have different colors to ours and speak different languages, being dealt with this way.

"That is how it becomes understandable that UNIFIL tops the long list of things Hezbollah hates. It also becomes understandable, for the same reason, that the vast majority of Lebanese, to whom life means more than martyrdom and whose country’s security means more to them than improving Iran’s military conditions, are clinging to the 'international forces'!"[12]

UNIFIL patrol attacked in village of Kawthariyat Al-Siyad one year ago (Source:, December 4, 2020)


[1] According to reports by some locals, the patrol was taking pictures of a Hizbullah military area., December 22, 2021.

[2], December 22, 2021.

[3] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), December 24, 2021.

[4]  Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), December 23, 2021.

[5]  Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), January 6, 2022.

[6] Al-Jumhouriyya (Lebanon), January 5, 2022.

[7]  Al-Nahar (Lebanon), January 9, 2022.

[8], December 23, 2021.

[10]  Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), December 24, 2021.

[11], December 24, 2021.

[12] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), December 26, 2021.

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