Since the March 15 invasion of southern Lebanon by the Israelis, United Nations peacekeeping troops have been taking up positions south of Litanti River, the limit of the Israeli advance.
Since the March 15 invasion of southern Lebanon by the Israelis, United Nations peacekeeping troops have been taking up positions south of Litanti River, the limit of the Israeli advance. By the time the United Nations interim force in Lebanon is up to its full strength of 6,000 men, troops from ten nations will be involved. The latest force to arrive is a contingent of troops from the tiny Pacific island of Fiji. They were due to take up position in Lebanon over the weekend.
SYNOPSIS: Almost the entire army of Fiji has been preparing to take up its position in Lebanon. The Queen Elizabeth Barracks in Fiji houses members of the Royal Fiji Military Forces who are now being briefed and exercised before taking their places beside French and Sengalese forces who have already taken up positions in the area around the Litani River.
Medical and physical preparation, X-raying and inoculation followed by lengthy briefing about the environment in which the Fijians will soon find themselves. The Israeli invasion dislodged tens of thousand of Lebanese from their homes, and the fleeing refugees are now living in difficult conditions. The possibility of being wounded is increased as the United nations forces could get caught in the conflicts that might flare up between the various opposing forces who are involved in patrolling the area. Three United Nations soldiers have already died.
"Lebanon is an area for all the conflicts of the Arab world, all the conflicts of the Middle East", said one Arab diplomat. The Israeli invasion is seen by some observers as a forceful reminder that Lebanon's problems are linked to what some see as the root cause of Middle East conflict -- the dispersal of the Palestinians when Israel was established 30 years ago.
While Lebanon's political leaders continue to disagree over the size and shape of the new government, the military guidelines of the United Nations peacekeeping force, that the Fijians are to join continue to be vague and imprecise. There is conflict between the Palestinian interpretation of Resolution 415, (which outlines the role of peace-keeping forces in Lebanon) and the interpretation of the commanders of the forces themselves. Unifil forces are sandwiched between Israeli troops, Palestinian Commandos and their leftist allies.
The Royal Fiji military forces will be involved in a peace-keeping task which some Western analysts say is an impossible mission; to solve with roadblocks and patrols a complicated political issue; the Palestinian problem. There is also conflict between moderate Palestinians and radicals over the extent and nature of commando operations against Israeli troops armed men are involved in the Lebanon. The Fijians will now find themselves among them.