General Pablo Gómez Lera of the Spanish Battalion in Lebanon: “Israel and Hezbollah have crossed so many red lines that the situation could get out of hand” | international

Earlier than taking cost of UNIFIL’s japanese sector final September, Mission Dr Blue helmet Within the south of Lebanon, Brigadier Basic Pablo Gómez Lera (Madrid, 57 years previous) made an exploratory go to. “We have been within the automotive unarmored with out helmets or vests. Essentially the most notable occasions have been the “cow crossings” between Israeli and Lebanese territory, he recalled in an interview with this newspaper on the Miguel de Cervantes base, the middle of the world’s largest Spanish deployment underneath the UN flag, with about 650 troops. A month later, all the things modified: the Hamas offensive was adopted by intense Israeli bombardment of Gaza in simply two days and a firefight with the Lebanese militia Hezbollah that escalated in depth. Unprecedented situations as we speak power UNIFIL troopers to remain in bases or superior posts and patrol with out leaving armored automobiles.

Throughout his six-month mission, which ends subsequent week, Gómez Lera not solely commanded his compatriots. Additionally one other 2,800 troopers (primarily Indian, Indonesian and Nepalese) who guard the harmful japanese sector: between the Litani River and the 120 km border – this isn’t an official border – with Israel and with Syrian territory it has occupied since 1967 (the Golan Heights). The place there are controversial factors like Ghayar or Sheba farm.

Gómez Lera warned that the each day clashes between the Israeli military and militias in southern Lebanon throughout these seven months, particularly Hezbollah, have elevated in depth and depth, a lot in waves and moved the crimson line a lot that the state of affairs “may get out of hand because of a miscalculation and will result in an open warfare “with innumerable penalties.” And it insists on defending the legitimacy of the ideas of UN Decision 1701, by means of which Spanish troops arrived after the warfare between Israel and Hezbollah, though some and others violated it If it had the identical curiosity in fulfilling it as they condemn and criticize it, perhaps we may have made some extra progress,” he says with out elevating his voice.

ask How has the state of affairs modified since October 8?

Reply. They’re two totally different Lebanons. Once we got here right here in early September, earlier than we deployed (in November), we went quietly, with out gear, with out helmets, with out vests, in an unarmored automotive. You’ll be able to go on the Blue Line. Essentially the most notable incidents have been cattle crossings, particularly in Indian areas, the place there isn’t any fence between Israeli and Lebanese areas. Or shepherds who transfer back and forth with their flocks. Small issues. On October 7, 1st and eighth right here they alter all the things. The primary rocket leaves the Golan Heights and opens Pandora’s field. Actions various in depth, depth and objective. First they have been very near the blue line, then they went just a little deeper, then there was the so-called selective killing… In that recreation, with the foundations of engagement we mentioned: ‘If this crimson line is crossed, it is going to result in an open battle, this crimson Traces have been crossed and there was no overt battle Seven months later, everybody nonetheless favors the Blue Line. And that is certainly one of our small satisfactions. Though we can’t bodily stop violence, we nonetheless stroll that skinny line. And that is how the inhabitants perceives us. It offers them safety and peace of thoughts to see us patrolling their city, day and night time. Possibly we have made a distinction between the present state of affairs and a complete warfare. What would occur if we weren’t right here?

Q. What in the event that they did not?

And. It is extra of a ‘what’s darkish?’ Absence of sunshine. Possibly the chaos was the absence of UNIFIL, which is extremely criticized, however right here we’re, 24 hours a day, seven days every week. We spent hours within the bunker, however 235 to 250 operational actions are carried out within the sector per day. The traditional month-to-month common is 6.5% exercise that we can’t do. We additionally assess a number of the inhabitants’s losses, very fastidiously in order to not offend sensitivities. After 8 October the main target was on sustaining the Blue Line and patrolling in any respect prices to forestall rocket launches.

Q. What’s the level of sustaining the blue line at any value?

And. That is the spirit of (Decision) 1701. The road was withdrawn by Israeli forces in 2000. And there are various areas the place the Lebanese state has reserves, however it’s important to take care of them. The spirit of the decision is to forestall that direct battle from taking place once more, from getting into on one facet or the opposite.

We don’t have the ability to guard all of the individuals of South Lebanon. It is usually a accountability of the Lebanese state. However within the face of imminent threats to their bodily security, we’ve an obligation to guard them. And we did it as soon as. One other pillar is, in fact, the assist of the Lebanese Armed Forces. All the pieces we do right here should be with and thru them. We’re not the primary actors. One thing that ought to be very clear. It’s a sovereign state and, moreover, if we transcend our obligations and what worldwide regulation permits us to do, we’ll do hurt to the Lebanese military and state and to adjust to the decision. It isn’t about changing the Lebanese state because the reliable proprietor of the vitality monopoly by performing in concord with it. It ought to be so. Yet another factor although.

It’s reaching a cycle of depth and escalation that may get out of hand at any second. Miscalculations can happen and result in conditions that nobody needs. Nobody has a crystal ball, however all the time has.

Q. Nobody has a crystal ball, however the variety of projectiles on days like as we speak is considerably increased than these launched in November…

And. All the pieces is completed. We reached a really vital peak in November earlier than the ceasefire. That week was loopy. Additionally when it ends. Or in February.

“We are inclined to normalize conditions that are not regular, like a day with 20 incidents is a sluggish day.”

Q. And the place are we now?

And. A Slightly within the beginning field once more. Because the assault on the Iranian Consulate (Israel) in Damascus (April 1), the environment has change into fairly tense. There was a lot concern about whether or not the battle was going to increase to a regional stage. Ultimately it thinned and there was nice diplomatic depth. All the pieces signifies that the worldwide neighborhood doesn’t need an open battle right here. Neither the EU, nor the US, nor the regional powers themselves, as this may have incalculable penalties.

Proper now we do not know what impact Rafah might need, whether or not it is an all-out offensive or a restricted one. It is dependent upon the diploma of connection between what is occurring in Gaza and what’s taking place in Lebanon. When it comes to the axis of resistance, all the things is seen as linked to Gaza’s assist entrance. However we should take into account the Israeli idea of whether or not they’re linked or disconnected points. After which the second-order actors, the inner dynamics of the Lebanese state, the Israelis… It’s totally onerous to learn what would possibly occur. I all the time hear essentially the most skilled say that anybody who tells you they know what is going on to occur in Lebanon does not know Lebanon.

General Pablo Gomez Lera.
Basic Pablo Gomez Lera.Diego Ibarra

Q. He mentioned, the crimson line is shifting. You would not suppose we’re near an open warfare, however the assaults have elevated, quantitatively and qualitatively.

And. They’ve endured in time and depth. There are peaks of nice depth, the solar and the flies following one another, as we’d say in Spain. We are inclined to normalize conditions that aren’t regular, like a day with 20 incidents is a weak day… these are explosions, airstrikes, rockets… it is nonetheless a really severe matter. There are 5 – 6 peaks in a month, however very intense.

Q. Eight months in the past issues that may have created an open warfare…

A. You do not know right here. It’s true that these crimson traces have moved, however the blue line continues to be there. Happily, none of them have crossed over but. 1701 continues to be legitimate and the ideas that govern it. Now it is dependent upon the extent of the settlement to be totally applied, to start out speaking about these reserved areas as properly, the disagreement in regards to the delimitation between the Blue Line and the Armistice Line (of 1949). And a key a part of that, little doubt, would be the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Q. What powers does UNIFIL have for the complete implementation of the decision?

And. It falls within the Lebanese state. That’s the place we’ve to work onerous. There should be a will, as a result of in any other case it could possibly be a lifeless letter. Either side, as a result of there are airspace violations by Israel. The matter is a dedication to implement the choice amongst all. If everybody took the identical curiosity in obeying it as they do in condemning it, maybe just a little extra progress can be made.

“We’re not attempting to interchange the Lebanese state. We should be clear that we’re not the primary actors.”

Q. In Israel, the sensation that just about 20 years after the warfare and the 1701 decision, continues to be South of Litani there are armed teams and extra arsenals. And that UNIFIL informs the Lebanese Armed Forces in regards to the violation, however they do nothing as a result of they do not wish to face Hezbollah.

And. It is a poll. At occasions the Lebanese Armed Forces discover themselves between a rock and a tough place. His lack of means and above all, the willingness and onerous compromises that the Lebanese state has all the time made. They nonetheless don’t have any president, with an performing prime minister, they have been in the course of covid and the port explosion (of Beirut) got here.

Q. You say that 1701 continues to be related in precept, nevertheless it doesn’t assure Israel that there aren’t any armed teams south of Litani, nor the Lebanese that their airspace isn’t violated each day by Israel…

A. And the reserved areas proceed, and lay declare to sure areas… A earlier decision, 1559 of 2004, already referred to as for the abolition of militias, of which Hezbollah is one, however there are others. A kaleidoscope that varieties the ‘axis of resistance’. There may be that, sure.

Q. What are you able to contribute in such an thrilling state of affairs?

And. We offer individuals with that confidence and sensitivity. The skinny blue line they understand can nonetheless separate them from complete chaos. I want we may do extra, nevertheless it’s all we are able to do. We can’t substitute the Lebanese state at any time, even underneath situations of peace. He has to behave. When, for instance, a shuttle is detected, they go to these. It is your nation, your state. It couldn’t be in any other case. With this order, in fact.

Q. Would you like the mandate to be totally different?

A. If we attempt to do all the things ourselves, we find yourself making use of our personal imaginative and prescient. And they need to be those (who resolve) how they need the nation. Expertise tells us that our greatest position is to assist individuals assist themselves. I believe that is the position the UN ought to take. If we have been speaking about Chapter Seven (missions authorizing the usage of power) it might be one thing else. In truth, the UN has not often resorted to Chapter VII. For some cause it might.

I believe that the wisest and most handy factor is to assist individuals right here or elsewhere to assist themselves, as a result of there needs to be a willingness on the a part of the states or communities that you’re attempting to assist in order that they’ll transfer ahead. Of free will, not imposed. It isn’t all the time good to use one’s personal eyes to unravel different’s issues, as a result of every individual perceives the issue with their very own eyes, soul and circumstances. If I attempt to apply my options to their issues, I could also be making them extra difficult.

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