Criticism as Two Indonesian Soldiers Flee Lebanese, Israeli Battle in Taxi
Beirut, Lebanon. Lebanese media have lashed out at the UN Interim Force, which includes Indonesian soldiers, in Lebanon, calling it an “impotent” bystander after a deadly border skirmish between Lebanese and Israeli forces.
“The impotent international forces beat a retreat, left the place of combat and watched the unfolding events from afar,” said the daily As-Safir, which is close to the Shiite movement Hezbollah.
UNIFIL had asked its soldiers only to “make a show of arms … against enemy forces,” the newspaper said on Wednesday. It had “encouraged [the enemy] with its reticence, without effectively intervening to prevent the Israeli aggression,” the newspaper alleged on Wednesday.
Lebanese and Israeli troops traded deadly fire on their tense border on Tuesday in the worst clash since the 2006 war between the Jewish state and the Shiite Hezbollah. Two Lebanese soldiers, a Lebanese journalist and a senior Israeli officer were killed.
The Al-Anwar daily mocked the multinational force, saying it “fulfills its role perfectly” when things are calm.
“But … when confrontations flare it is only a simple spectator, which contacts the two parties to try to restore calm and then submits a report to the Security Council,” the newspaper said.
Daily An-Nahar daily said: “The question is, what to do if the incident is repeated … in particular regarding the claimed role of UNIFIL.”
“Why did UNIFIL not help the army, at least by offering first aid?” it questioned, citing senior sources involved in calming the border tension.
It said an organization such as UNIFIL was “obliged to deal with the evacuation of casualties.”
On Tuesday, Hezbollah-run Al-Manar television aired images of two Indonesian soldiers, presumably from UNIFIL, leaving the site of the skirmish in a shared taxi.
New TV, which also sympathizes with Hezbollah, spoke of the “escape” of UNIFIL soldiers.
The UN force urged “maximum restraint” following the clashes along the so-called Blue Line, a UN-drawn border.
The acting force commander, Brigadier General Santi Bonfanti, flew to the site of the clashes and personally called on both parties to “stop firing in all the area.”
UNIFIL has some 13,000 troops from various countries stationed in southern Lebanon.
The force, which was set up in 1978 to monitor the border between Israel and southern Lebanon, was considerably beefed up in the wake of the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel.