Fierce fighting continues to rage in southern Lebanon – UN mission

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) reported today that heavy fighting continues in its area of operation in the country’s south, with Hizbollah rockets striking a UN position during the past 24 hours and the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) shelling close to another UN post.Two Hizbollah rockets hit a UNIFIL position near Hula within a half-hour period, the mission said in a statement issued in the Lebanese city of Naqoura. The strikes caused “extensive material damage,” but no casualties were reported. Hizbollah also launched rockets from the vicinity of four other UN positions: Alma Ash Shab, Marwahin, Tibnin and At Tiri.There were two incidents of IDF firing from close to the UNIFIL post near Kafr Kila, while an IDF tank fired machine gun rounds from the vicinity of a UN position near Marwahin, the mission said, noting it has protested to Lebanese and Israeli authorities about the firing from both sides.The clashes are not confined to the areas around UN posts, with UNIFIL reporting that the IDF has made several ground incursions into Lebanese territory in the past 24 hours.As the fierce fighting continued, the Security Council received briefings behind closed doors today from Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno and an official from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on the latest developments in the crisis.Speaking to reporters, UN spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said that during the closed talks, Mr. Guéhenno “repeated the Secretary-General’s call for an immediate cessation of hostilities and the restoration of UNIFIL’s freedom of movement, and he emphasized the obligation of the parties to ensure the safety and security of United Nations personnel, among many other things.”The Council’s President for August, Ambassador Nana Effah-Apenteng of Ghana, told reporters that the Council has asked to receive daily briefings from OCHA and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) while the conflict persists.Mr. Effah-Apenteng said informal discussions were ongoing about a possible Council resolution to end the combat. “We want a comprehensive solution to the crisis,” he said.Since the conflict began three weeks, the violence has forced about 1 million people to flee their homes in Lebanon and northern Israel, including an estimated 800,000 people in Lebanon. Hundreds of others have been killed and thousands more injured.Four UNIFIL military observers were also killed on 25 July when IDF bombardment destroyed their post at Khiyam, and three of their bodies have been recovered so far. UNIFIL said today that an engineering contingent from the mission assessed the site yesterday to determine the equipment needed to remove debris as part of the continuing search for the body of the fourth observer. read more

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