Analysts suspect UNIFIL attack linked to pressure on Syria
riday’s bomb attack that targeted a UNIFIL patrol in south Lebanon, wounding five French peacekeepers, is intended to send “a political message” to Western countries, mainly France, which are stepping up pressure on Syria to halt its violent crackdown on protesters demanding the ouster of President Bashar Assad, political analysts said Friday.
Lebanon’s top leaders and political parties, including Hezbollah, have condemned the bombing, the third this year targeting patrols of the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon. President Michel Sleiman called on French peacekeeping forces to stay in Lebanon and vowed to find those responsible for the attack.
“This terrorist attack is aimed at pressuring these [French] troops to withdraw and pave the way for the return of terrorist activities,” Sleiman told a joint news conference with his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkseyan in the Armenian capital Yerevan.
Retired Lebanese Army Gen. Elias Hanna said the attack on UNIFIL was “directly linked” to the Western - and mainly French - position on the unrest in Syria.
“Definitely, the attack is a political message linked to the situation in Syria. The attack is enough to send a political message but not enough to change the rules of engagement with UNIFIL in the south,” Hanna, a strategic analyst, told The Daily Star.
Carol Maalouf, a political analyst, also linked the attack to the European Union’s sanctions on Syria.
“What happened today was not an accident. It was a premeditated attack against the international community through UNIFIL. The attack is a clear message to the governments of these [European] countries, mainly France, because of its heavy involvement in the Lebanese and Syrian affairs,” Maalouf, a lecturer in political science and political history of Lebanon at Notre Dame University, told The Daily Star.