As UNIFIL has begun installing new cameras at its posts along the border in southern Lebanon, the head of the peacekeeping mission has clarified the purpose of this move.
Speaking to the National News Agency (NNA) on Sunday, Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col, UNIFIL Force Commander and Head of Mission, explained that adding these cameras in sites close to the Blue Line is part of the United Nations‘ strategy to protect its employees working in peacekeeping missions around the world.
The installation of cameras was met with objection from some locals in southern areas, especially those living close to UNIFIL posts.
In response, Del Col underlined UNIFIL’s “long history in the south,” adding that the confidence of locals is “of primary importance to us.”
He went on to express regret for what he called “the misunderstandings and misinformation that have eroded this confidence in recent days.”
Del Col explained that UNIFIL had consulted with the Lebanese Army before the U.N. Security Council approved the recent recommendations that included the installation of these cameras.
Additional considered recommendations included closing several UNIFIL sites, reducing the size of vehicles to preserve the environment and people’s lives, and using modern technology, such as drones, to increase UNIFIL’s monitoring capacity.
“We explained to [the Army] that we would respect the privacy of the people who live and work near our sites. We do not have any jurisdiction to monitor inside villages or private homes,” he said.
As to how UNIFIL will handle this issue, “we intend to continue engaging with the local community to address their concerns cooperatively and productively, just as we have always done in the past,” the officer explained.
He reiterated: “These cameras will only be used as a measure to protect [UNIFIL].”
It’s important to note, as Del Col did, that the cameras are only being installed in certain sites that belong to UNIFIL, near the Blue Line, in order to better monitor violations of UNSC Resolution 1701.
Additionally, “there will be no cameras in other parts of the area of operations nor outside U.N. sites, and this is because they are only intended to assist peacekeepers in monitoring the Blue Line, improving security, and protecting the Force,” Del Col said.
UNIFIL’s new cameras will be directed to the south and their locations will be the same ones from which peacekeepers have been conducting surveillance and monitoring operations using binoculars, according to Del Col.