Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi urged on Monday the Lebanese state to seize all illegal weapons in the country and embark on implementing UN resolution 1701.
Rahi’s calls came following a deadly incident that claimed the life of an Irish soldier of the UN peacekeepers (UNIFIL) operating in southern Lebanon.
A convoy of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon came under fire near the village of Al-Aqbiya late Wednesday killing Private Sean Rooney and wounding three other peacekeepers.
Witnesses said villagers in the Al-Aqbiya area blocked Rooney's vehicle after it took a road along the Mediterranean coast not normally used by the United Nations force.
It is the first death of a UNIFIL member in a violent incident in Lebanon since January 2015, when a Spanish peacekeeper was killed by Israeli fire.
The Intelligence branch of the Lebanese army opened investigations into the incident. Security sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that speedy investigations were opened to track the perpetrators, but that no suspects have been arrested so far.
In his Sunday sermon, Rahi said: “We strongly denounce and condemn (the incident) and we offer condolences to his friendly country and to his family, and to the Irish contingent, the commander of the international forces and their soldiers, and we also wish a speedy recovery for his injured members."
Rahi stressed that the incident only tarnishes the image of Lebanon, urging Lebanese authorities to open a transparent investigation to uncover the truth.
“This tragic incident, which tarnishes the image of Lebanon, requires a transparent Lebanese and international investigation to reveal the truth and deliver justice. The time has come for the state to put its hand on every unlawful and illegitimate weapon and implement Resolution 1701 in letter and spirit,” he said.
Rahi lamented what he described as “selective” implementation of UN resolutions, saying: "It is by far selective, arbitrary, and restricted by the decision of the de facto forces, while the state bites at its wound and restricts its capabilities in favor of others.”
UN Resolution 1701 calls for the full cessation of hostilities, the deployment of Lebanese forces to Southern Lebanon, parallel withdrawal of Israeli forces behind the Blue Line, strengthening the UN force (UNIFIL) to facilitate the entry of Lebanese Forces in the region and the establishment of a demilitarized zone between the Blue Line and the Litani River. It also calls for the UN Secretary-General to develop proposals to implement the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords as well as Security Council Resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006) and imposes an arms embargo on Lebanon. The resolution was formally agreed to by both parties within 48 hours of its adoption.
Rahi stressed the need for positive and active neutrality, and the need to hold an international conference on Lebanon to address its political, economic and security crises.
“Everything happening at the presidential, governmental, parliamentary, and military levels in the south and on the borders, and the debilitation of the state, head and body, confirm the need to renew our call for active positive neutrality, and for convening an international conference on Lebanon,” he stated.
Over the years, there have been a number of incidents between Hezbollah supporters and UN peacekeepers but they have rarely escalated.
Wafic Safa, Hezbollah's security chief, said on Thursday that the incident was "unintentional" and called for investigators to be given time to establish the facts.