Sikhs in UNIFIL Praised for Helping Enforce Ceasefire in Lebanon

-=Sukh Tiwana=-

Sikhs in UNIFIL Praised for Helping Enforce Ceasefire in Lebanon Date: 08/30/2006 News Source: By SSNews, afp
The men of the 28-year-old United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) continue observing, patrolling, and delivering humanitarian assistance in south Lebanon while they wait for reinforcements to help enforce a ceasefire between Israel and the Hezbollah Shiite militia.

"The role has not changed. It has become more intense," says a public relations officer of UNIFIL.

"We continue to observe and report."

About 650 soldiers from India's 4th Battalion, Sikh Regiment, along with a battalion from Ghana, make up the bulk of UNIFIL's nearly 2,000 soldiers.

Under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 that ended 34 days of fighting that left much of south Lebanon in ruins, UNIFIL is to receive additional personnel and an enlarged mandate.

"It will be for the benefit of Lebanon," says the officer.

Up to 7,000 additional soldiers are expected to be on the ground at some point in the future. In the meantime it is up to the lightly-armed soldiers from India and Ghana to monitor the shaky truce.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was to visit the headquarters of the French-led UNIFIL mission in the coastal town of Naqura on Tuesday as he completed a two-day visit to Lebanon.

Men from the battalion had to recover the bodies of four unarmed UN observers killed in what Annan called an apparently deliberate strike on their post near the town of Khiam. Israel said it would conduct an inquiry.

"In the darkness we tried to shout and call out," hoping the men were still alive. "The whole night we dug, with bare hands sometimes."

In the long history of UNIFIL, many peacekeepers have died, and their names fill a plaque in the southern city of Tyre.

Under Resolution 1701, UNIFIL is to accompany and support Lebanon's army as it spreads out in south Lebanon and along the border as Israeli soldiers withdraw.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan shakes hand of member of United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) who was injured during conflict of Hizbollah and Israeli forces at UN base in Naqoura

The Sikh Regiment is making a real difference in maintaining order and has been relied upon to maintain order in a difficult area under very volatile circumstances. Their determination and hard work in the Middle-East has been praised the world over.