Gulf Today

Four peacekeepe­rs injured in Lebanon shell explosion


BEIRUT: Three United Nations observers and a translator were wounded on Saturday when a shell exploded near them as they were carrying out a foot patrol in south Lebanon, the UN peacekeepi­ng mission said, adding it was still investigat­ing the origin of the blast.

The UN peacekeepi­ng mission known as UNIFIL, as well as unarmed technical observers known as UNTSO, are stationed in southern Lebanon to monitor hostilitie­s along the demarcatio­n line between Lebanon and Israel, known as the Blue Line.

Lebanese armed group Hizbollah has been trading fire with the Israeli military across the Blue Line since October in parallel with the war in Gaza.

UNIFIL said in a statement on Saturday that the targeting of peacekeepe­rs is “unacceptab­le” and that the wounded staff had been evacuated for treatment.

Two security sources had earlier told reporters the observers were wounded in an Israeli strike outside the border town of Rmeish.

The Israeli military denied involvemen­t in the incident. “Contrary to the reports, the IDF did not strike a UNIFIL vehicle in the area of Rmeish this morning,” the military said in a statement.

Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati spoke with UNIFIL commander Aroldo Lozaro, condemning the “targeting” and wounding of UN staff in southern Lebanon, according to a statement from Mikati’s office.

The mayor of Rmeish, Milad Alam, said that he had spoken with the Lebanese translator and confirmed his condition was stable.

“From Rmeish, we heard a blast and then saw a UNIFIL car zipping by. The foreign observers were taken to hospitals in Tyre and Beirut by helicopter and car,” Milad said, without providing details on their condition.

One of the observers was a Norwegian citizen, who was lightly injured, the Nordic country’s defence ministry told reporters.

Lebanon’s National News Agency said the other two wounded observers were Chilean and Australian.

Israel’s shelling of Lebanon has killed nearly 270 Hizbollah fighters, but has also killed around 50 civilians — including children, medics and journalist­s — and hit both UNIFIL and the Lebanese army.

UNIFIL last month said that the Israeli military violated internatio­nal law by firing on a group of clearly identifiab­le journalist­s, killing Reuters reporter Issam Abdallah.

The UN’S Special Coordinato­r for Lebanon, Joanna Wronecka, said in a statement that she was “saddened” to learn of the injuries and that the incident served as “another reminder of the urgent need to return to a cessation of hostilitie­s across the Blue Line.”

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