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Monday, January 1, 2007

Exclusive: UNIFIL raises level of alert

Exclusive: UNIFIL raises level of alert

Fearing attacks by Global Jihad and Hizbullah, the UNIFIL has raised the level of alert around its bases in southern Lebanon, a high-ranking officer in the multinational force told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

According to the officer, threat-warnings recently relayed by the IDF regarding potential threats were "taken seriously" and were being handled with extreme caution. The officer refused to say what changes had been made to security procedures in UNIFIL bases, except that "necessary measures" were taken.

"This threat is serious," the high-ranking officer said, "and we are taking the necessary precautions."

Two weeks ago, Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz, head of Military Intelligence's Research Division, told the cabinet that there were increasing signs that Global Jihad elements were establishing a presence in Lebanon and planning attacks against UNIFIL.

The high-ranking UNIFIL officer said the Global Jihad terror cells posed a direct threat to the multinational force in southern Lebanon, particularly to its French, Italian and Spanish soldiers.

UNIFIL issued a year-end press release over the weekend saying it now had more than 11,000 peacekeepers in its area of operations, Lebanon south of the Litani River.

The latest addition to UNIFIL came with the recent arrival of troops from Qatar, marking the first time that the country has contributed to a UN peacekeeping mission.

UNIFIL currently has 11,083 personnel from 26 countries, including 9,167 ground troops and 1,777 naval personnel.

UNIFIL said its troops destroyed 1,019 explosive devices over the past week, including rockets, grenades, cluster bombs and antitank and antipersonnel mines.

Since the cease-fire went into effect on August 14, UNIFIL sappers have destroyed 16,819 explosive devices, remnants of the monthlong war between Israel and Hizbullah.

On Friday, two Belgian UNIFIL soldiers were lightly wounded when they stepped on a cluster bomb during a mine-clearing operation in southern Lebanon.

According to a high-ranking source in the IDF Northern Command, UNIFIL has been doing an exemplary job in preventing Hizbullah from reestablishing outposts along the border or bearing arms in public in southern Lebanon. Its Spanish, French and Italian soldiers, he said, were particularly effective in locating and destroying Hizbullah weapon caches.

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