Irish Soldier Killed on U.N. Peacekeeping Mission in Lebanon
An Irish soldier was shot and killed on a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Lebanon and a second was in a critical condition after a hostile crowd surrounded their armoured vehicle, Ireland’s defence minister said on Thursday.
The soldiers, part of the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon, UNIFIL, were on what Simon Coveney, who is also Ireland’s foreign minister, said was considered a standard run from UNIFIL’s area of operations in south Lebanon to Beirut when the incident happened in Al-Aqbieh late on Wednesday.
“The two armoured vehicles effectively got separated. One of them got surrounded by a hostile mob, I think that’s the only way you could describe them, and shots were fired. Unfortunately, one of our peacekeepers was killed,” Coveney told Irish national broadcaster RTE.
“This was not expected.” Yes there has been some tension on the ground between Hezbollah forces and UNIFIL in recent months but nothing like this.
Hezbollah is a powerful armed group and a heavyweight political party with significant support in the country’s south.
UNIFIL has operated in Lebanon since 1978 to maintain peace along its border with Israel to the south. It was expanded after a U.N. resolution that halted the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war in southern Lebanon.
Hezbollah on Thursday offered its condolences and told Reuters it was not involved.
Senior Hezbollah official Wafiq Safa said the soldier’s death came after an “unintentional incident that took place between the residents of Al-Aqbieh and individuals from the Irish unit” and urged the party not be “inserted” into the incident.
UNIFIL said it was coordinating with the Lebanese army and had launched an investigation but details remained “sparse and conflicting.”
The U.N.’s special coordinator for Lebanon Joanna Wronecka said on Twitter: “A quick & thorough investigation to determine the facts of this tragic incident is crucial.”
Lebanon’s caretaker premier Najib Mikati urged all parties to “show wisdom and patience“. The Lebanese army offered its condolences but did not give additional details.
Reuters /Shakirat Sadiq