UN soldier killed in Lebanon outside area of authority
Many in Lebanon have suggested that the UNIFIL peacekeeping force has for years been acting to suppress Lebanese resistance on behalf of Israel
By News Desk - December 15 2022

(Photo credit: Mohammad Zaatari/AP)

A soldier from the UNIFIL peacekeeping force in Lebanon was killed on 14 December after a vehicle carrying soldiers was shot at then overturned on the Al-Aqabiya seaside road between the southern towns of Al-Zahrani and Tyre.

The soldier killed was an Irish national identified as Private Seán Rooney, a member of the 27 Infantry Battalion and a native of Newtowncunningham, Co Donegal.

A second soldier is reported to be in critical condition, while two other UNIFIL soldiers are being treated for minor injuries, in a hospital in Sidon.

“It is with deep regret that Óglaigh na hÉireann (the Irish Defence Forces) can confirm the death of one of our peacekeepers in a serious incident in Lebanon last night,” the Irish military said in a statement.

The UNIFIL vehicle, which was en route to Beirut International Airport through Sidon governorate, had reportedly taken the seaside route instead of the highway, which is an unfrequented route for the UNIFIL peacekeeping forces.

The UNIFIL’s intention to pass through the villages on the sea road angered a group of citizens, who were suspicious of the soldiers and demanded they leave after blocking their intended path.

Lebanese locals are adamant about their refusal to accept the presence of UN soldiers – unless they are being escorted by Lebanese army personnel. The fact that the soldiers were unaccompanied created additional tensions.

According to a report by Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar, the driver refused to stop the car and proceeded to run over the feet of one of the protesters, sparking further anger among the crowd.

Gunfire was then heard, with an Al-Mayadeen correspondent reporting that the UNIFIL troops allegedly fired several rounds into the air to ward off the demonstration, creating more chaos.

In a panic, the driver reportedly sped through the crowd and crashed into a roadside shop before the vehicle overturned into a fill slope.

According to videos circulating on social media, some of the protesters tried to rescue the soldiers following the accident, before the Civil Defense and Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) arrived on the scene.

A number of mainstream outlets, however, including Israeli media, have reported that the UNIFIL members were killed by gunfire, and not in an accident.

This was corroborated by a Lebanese judicial source to AFP, who explained that seven bullets were shot at the car – likely by the angered locals – one of which hit the back of the soldier’s head and killed him.

Al-Akhbar has reported that an investigation will be underway, and that the surviving members of the convoy will be questioned on why they strayed from their designated route.

A senior Hezbollah official, Wafiq Safa, was quoted by Reuters as offering his condolences for the deaths, and stressing that the resistance group was not involved, as some have attempted to pin it on them.

Safa also urged that Hezbollah not be “inserted” into the issue for political reasons.

“The details about the incident are sporadic and conflicting, and we are coordinating with the Lebanese Armed Forces … we have opened an investigation to determine exactly what happened,” UNIFIL spokesperson Andrea Tenenti said, adding that the incident took place “outside UNIFIL’s area of ​​operations in southern Lebanon.”

UNIFIL has been operating in Lebanon since the first Israeli invasion of 1978, after which UN Resolution 425 was passed, allowing the “peacekeeping force” to “monitor the cessation of hostilities between Lebanon and Israel.” Despite this, their forces failed to end an 18-year occupation and have even attempted to expand their areas of influence without proper authorization.

Many in Lebanon have accused the UNIFIL of acting to suppress resistance in southern Lebanon on behalf of Israel.

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