Proposed rules of engagement for an expanded U.N. force in southern Lebanon would allow troops to open fire in self-defense, protect civilians and back up the Lebanese army in preventing foreign forces or arms from crossing the border, according to a U.N. document obtained Tuesday.
The 20-page draft was circulated to potential troop-contributing countries last week by the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations, which is trying to get an additional 3,500 troops on the ground by the end of next week to strengthen the 2,000 overstretched U.N. peacekeepers already there.
The rules of engagement for the expanded force — which is authorized to grow to 15,000 -- have held back some potential troop contributors because of concerns that their soldiers would be required to disarm Hezbollah, which has controlled southern Lebanon.
Some countries have also been concerned that the rules would be overly restrictive, all but preventing commanders from making quick decisions -- including using force if needed.
While remaining "predominantly defensive in nature," the draft rules allow for the use of "deadly force" and offensive action, if necessary, to ensure implementation of the Aug. 11 U.N. resolution that led to the fragile cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah fighters after a brutal 34-day war.
Although there is no authorization in the Security Council mandate or the rules of engagement to disarm Hezbollah, the rules are sufficiently robust to put the U.N. potentially in conflict with armed groups violating the cease-fire or the arms embargo -- including Hezbollah. The rules would also give the U.N. commander on the ground wide-ranging authority to react.