Sunday, 31 March 2024 08:09

UN launches investigation into Lebanon explosion that injured peacekeepers

UN Photo/John Isaac
Three soldiers of the Irish Battalion attached to UNIFIL on look-out duty at Hill 88 overlooking At Tiri.

The UN peacekeeping force in south Lebanon (UNIFIL) has announced that it is investigating an explosion in the Rmeish area that injured four unarmed peacekeepers on a foot patrol along the Blue Line that divides Israel from Lebanon and the disputed Golan Heights.

In a statement released on Saturday, UNIFIL spokesperson Andrea Tenenti, said that the casualties – three military observers from the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) and a Lebanese language assistant – have been evacuated for medical treatment.

The Lebanese state-run National News Agency reported that the UN peacekeepers were “subjected to an Israeli strike” carried out by drones. However, in a Tweet, Israeli military spokesperson Avichay Adraee said that the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) did not target any UNIFIL vehicles in the Rmeish area.

Mr. Tenenti explained that the UNTSO observers, who are part of Observer Group Lebanon (OGL), support UNIFIL in implementing the force’s mandate, which includes monitoring the cessation of hostilities, helping to ensure humanitarian access to civilian populations and assisting the Lebanese government in securing the country’s borders.

The spokesperson underlined the responsibility of all actors in the conflict, under international law, to ensure protection for non-combatants, and called for a cessation of heavy exchanges of fire “before more people are unnecessarily hurt”.

In a media interview, Mr. Tenenti told reporters that, following the 7 October Hamas attacks on Israel, the situation in southern Lebanon has become increasingly tense, with shelling taking place deeper within Lebanon which “could potentially trigger a much wider conflict”.

UNPeacekeeping

Two days before the explosion, UNIFIL expressed concern over a “surge of violence” occurring across the Blue Line, which has caused a “high number of civilians and the destruction of homes and livelihoods”. The force called for a ceasefire, and urged all sides in the conflict to begin the process toward a sustainable political and diplomatic solution.

Later on Saturday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement that the situation along the Blue Line continues to be of grave concern, referring to the daily exchanges of fire that have taken place between non-state armed groups based in Lebanon and the Israel Defense Forces since 8 October 2023.

The civilian fatalities reported, destruction of residential and agricultural areas, and displacement of tens of thousands of people on both sides of the Blue Line, is unacceptable, declared the UN chief, and threaten the security and stability of Lebanon, Israel, and the region.