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UNIFIL Knows It Can Bank On Fiji To Make A Difference In Lebanon

Fijian troops will soon rejoin the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Their return no doubt will remind them of the proud legacy left behind by their predecessors. Forty
14 Dec 2014 13:45
UNIFIL Knows It Can Bank On Fiji To Make A Difference In Lebanon

Fijian troops will soon rejoin the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Their return no doubt will remind them of the proud legacy left behind by their predecessors. Forty Fijian soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice for the cause of peace and stability in southern Lebanon.

UNFIL records show that prior to the Fijian troops arriving in Lebanon in 1978, there was tension along the Israel-Lebanon especially after the relocation of Palestinian armed elements from Jordan to Lebanon. Palestinian commando operations against Israel and Israeli reprisals against Palestinian bases in Lebanon intensified.

In March 1978, a commando attack in Israel resulted in many dead and wounded among the Israeli population. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) claimed responsibility for that raid. In response, Israeli forces invaded Lebanon on the night of March 14-15, and in a few days occupied the entire southern part of the country except for the city of Tyre and its surrounding area.

On March 15, 1978, the Lebanese Government submitted a strong protest to the Security Council against the Israeli invasion, stating that it had no connection with the Palestinian commando operation. On March 19, the Council adopted resolutions 425 (1978) and 426 (1978), in which it called upon Israel immediately to cease its military action and withdraw its forces from all Lebanese territory.

It also decided on the immediate establishment of the UNIFIL) with three broadly defined purposes: confirming the withdrawal of Israeli forces; restoring international peace and security; and assisting the Government of Lebanon in ensuring the return of its effective authority in the area.

The first UNIFIL troops, including Fijians arrived in the area in 1978.

Following the Israeli withdrawal from 2000 onwards, the situation in the area of UNIFIL operation became quiet. The Lebanese army, gendarmerie, and police established checkpoints in the vacated area, controlling movement and maintaining law and order.

Southern Lebanon had seen dramatic change and that after more than two decades the guns had fallen silent. Fiji earned enormous respect from the international community for its contribution, its unwavering commitment and non-nonsense approach in dealing with armed elements.

It was on the soil of Lebanon that the Fijians laid the foundation of their peacekeeping operation and sealed it with the blood of their 40 fallen comrades.

The Americans and the Israelis were so impressed with the exemplary performance of the Fijians that the United States invited Fiji to be part of its sponsored Multi-National Observer Force in the Sinai to monitor peace and cross border incursions by armed elements.

Since then Fiji has been involved in peacekeeping operations in Kosovo, Iraq, Liberia, Sudan, Timor-Leste and Golan Heights. The BBC once remarked that Fiji has a long and proud history of sending its forces to the world’s troubled spots. Now it is set to return to where it all started – Southern Lebanon. The local community there has not forgotten the friendliness and compassionate service of the Fijians.

The Fijian interaction with the locals had helped in building support and confidence at a crucial time when tension was rife in the area and violent conflicts erupted from time to time. Their recall to Lebanon shows how much the UN highly values their professionalism, contribution and commitment.




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