United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)

International Operation Name: United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)

International Operation Dates:  1978/03/19 - present

Mandating Organization: United Nations

Region Name:  Middle East

Location:  Lebanon

Canadian Operation Name: Operation ANGORA

Canadian Operation Dates: 1978/04/13 – 1978/10/01

Mission Mandate:

In accordance with Security Council Resolution 426 (19 March 1978), UNIFIL was established to:

  • Confirm the withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon;
  • Restore international peace and security; and
  • Assist the Government of Lebanon in ensuring the return of its effective authority in the area.

Mission Notes: 

In the early 1970’s tensions along the Israeli-Lebanese border increased, with frequent incursions by Palestinian terrorist groups into Israel. These became more frequent after the displacement of the Palestinian terrorist groups from Jordan to Lebanon and after the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. The Lebanese government was unable to prevent these incursions, as the country was in the midst of a civil war. On 11 March 1978, Al-Fatah launched a raid along the main coastal road in the north. Eleven terrorists landed in northern Israel, killing thirty-four Israelis and one American and injuring over seventy Israelis. They commandeered a bus and were stopped in a fierce gunfight with Israeli police north of Tel Aviv.

In response, on the night of 14/15 March, Israel launched a four-pronged offensive into southern Lebanon. The Lebanese government submitted a strong protest to the Security Council, which subsequently issued a resolution on 19 March calling upon Israel to cease its military activities and withdraw from Lebanon. The resolution also called upon the Secretary-General to implement a United Nations interim force for Southern Lebanon, which became the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon.

The first UN forces to arrive in southern Lebanon were members of UNTSO. They were followed soon thereafter by an Iranian Company from UNDOF. A Canadian signals detachment (73 Canadian Signals Squadron) was temporarily assigned from UNEF II, being relieved by the Canadian Contingent UNIFIL on 29 April.

Based on an urgent appeal from the Secretary-General, Canada agreed to provide a signals troop to UNIFIL until 1 October 1978. The Canadian op name was Operation ANGORA. The troop was composed mainly of personnel from the 1st Canadian Signals Regiment in Kingston with 12 augmentees from the Canadian Airborne Regiment. This initial group of 91 personnel commenced deployment on 18 April from CFB Trenton, and were all on the ground in Lebanon by 19 April. The Canadian Contingent was composed of two units: the Canadian Signal Unit UNIFIL (CSU-U) with 89 personnel, and the Chief Signal Officer UNIFIL with two personnel.

The CSU-U was responsible for setting up the communications system between UNIFIL HQ and its deployed battalions. Initially, UNIFIL was to have five battalions and a logistics support unit, totaling 4,000 soldiers. The CSU-U thus found themselves stretched when they discovered that UNIFIL actually increased to 6,000 as a result of fighting between terrorists and UN forces in early May. As a result a further draft of twenty-six personnel arrived in theatre on 16 June. These personnel were recruited from around Canada and allowed the CSU-U to operate in a reasonable manner.

Besides manning the UNIFIL communications net, manning the UNIFIL switchboard and operating the signals dispatch service, the CSU-U found themselves creating an increased communications net, providing local defence and security, and feeding UNIFIL HQ staff. On 12 July three Canadians were among a group of fifty-two UN soldiers captured by elements of the Palestine Liberation Organization. They were released unharmed after three hours, although several other UN soldiers were injured in the fighting.

Of the 117 Canadians, two had a slightly different role - the Chief Signals Officer (CSO) and the Chief Communications Operator. They were responsible for the coordination of the UNIFIL communications system, both voice and data. The CSO was an acting-lieutenant-colonel who was also appointed the Senior Canadian Officer in UNIFIL.

As specified in the original agreement with the UN, the Canadian Contingent ceased operations on 1 October. On 2 October, equipment was packed and prepared for shipment through Haifa. The first group of Canadians left Ismailia on 4 October and were back in Canada on the 6th. The second group departed from Tel Aviv and were home on 9 October.

The Canadian Signals unit was replaced by a combination of military and civilian communicators. UNIFIL continues its efforts at maintaining peace and security in the southern area of Lebanon, although under a different mandate. Canadians have participated from time-to-time, as members of UNTSO are often detached to UNIFIL.

 

UNIFIL Headquarters at Naguora Lebanon.

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