PM Formally Closes Lebanon Mission, Visits Golan Troops
Golan Heights Fijian troop size to be cut by 50 per cent.
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama last night formally closed the Fijian Battalion peacekeeping mission in Southern Lebanon. He travelled from Katowice in Poland, where he was attending COP24 to meet the Force Commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). He thanked MajorGeneral Stefano Del Col of Italy, who has been in command for only four months.
He replaced MajorGeneral Michael Beary of Ireland in August this year. Mr Bainimarama will then travel to the Golan Heights between Syria and Israel to thank the Force Commander of the United Nations Disengagement Observe Force (UNDOF), where Fijian troops will be reduced by 50 per cent. The reduction is due to the reconfiguration of peacekeeping troops and greater amount of peace in the UNDOF’s operational area. Mr Bainimarama accompanied by is Republic of Fiji Military Forces Commander Rear Admiral Viliame Naupoto and Ambassador Satyendra Prasad, Fiji’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
The Lebanon-based Fijian troops will return to Fiji for good on December 21 after 14 months deployment.
Fijian troops first started their peacekeeping mission there in 1978.
The UN mandate ended shortly after the Israeli Defence Force (IDF), launched a retaliatory attack, dubbed Operation Grapes of Wrath, in UNIFIL’s area of operation in 1996. It was in response to artillery rounds fired by armed elements towards Israel from Qana. When it was over more than 500 plus people were dead and five Fijian peacekeepers were among the injured. Miraculously, no was killed.
The UN mandate was renewed in 2015 and Fijian peacekeepers returned to Southern Lebanon.
More than 34 Fijians died while serving with UNIFIL.
It is understood that troops will be deployed to take up other responsibilities. Fijian
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama (fourth from left) with the Commander of the Republic of the Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) Rear Admiral Viliame Naupoto (third from left) and Ambassador Satyendra Prasad and the United Nations Fijian peacekeepers during his visit to Lebanon.
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama with Major-General Stefano Del Col of Italy in Lebanon.