(Photo Credit : Mohammed Zaatari/AP)
On 22 December, a Lebanese official informed AFP that investigators identified several suspects in the murder of 24-year-old Private Sean Rooney, employed by the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
Rooney was killed on 14 December in the southern Lebanese town of Al-Aqabiya, while three others were injured in the shooting incident.
“The investigation has been able to identify suspects, but so far none has been arrested, and the security services are still looking for them,” said the unidentified official to AFP.
The source also claimed that the UN patrol “was the target of gunfire from at least two people.”
According to the investigation, the attack “was premeditated and the patrol was surveilled and followed by a car carrying armed men.”
The UNIFIL vehicle, which was en route to Beirut International Airport through Sidon governorate, was travelling along the seaside route instead of the highway, which is outside of the mandate of the UNIFIL forces.
The soldiers’ intention to pass through the villages on the sea road angered local citizens, largely belonging to the Shia Muslim sect, who were suspicious of the foreign troops 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.
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.