UN peacekeeper killed after attack in southern Lebanon

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BEIRUT (AP) — An Irish U.N. peacekeeper was killed and several others wounded after unidentified attackers opened fire on a convoy in southern Lebanon, Irish and Lebanese military officials said Thursday.

The Irish Defense Forces said in a statement said that a pair of armored vehicles carrying eight Irish UNIFIL peacekeeping troops were fired at as they drove north, toward Beirut, Tuesday night from the town of Al-Aqbiya.

The Irish military added that one of the three wounded soldiers is in serious condition. It did not identify the assailants.

UNIFIL confirmed that one peacekeeper was killed and three were wounded.

“Our thoughts are also with the local civilians who may have been injured or frightened during the incident,” UNIFIL spokesperson Andrea Tenenti said, adding that “details are sparse and conflicting.” Tenenti added that UNIFIL is coordinating with the military and trying to “determine exactly what happened.”

Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin expressed his condolences in a statement on Twitter.

“It is a reminder that our peacekeepers serve in dangerous circumstances, at all times, in the cause of peace,” he said.

Cell phone videos circulated online shows one of the two UNIFIL vehicles speeding to leave the area while it was shot at. Some residents were visible filming the incident. Another showed the vehicle had rolled over after crashing into the aluminum shutters of a building, with a wounded peacekeeper on the on ground beside it.

Scuffles between southern Lebanon residents and UNIFIL troops are not uncommon. In January, unknown perpetuators attacked Irish peacekeepers in the southern town of Bint Jbeil, vandalizing their vehicles and stealing items. The residents accused them of taking photographs of residential homes, though the U.N. denied this.

UNIFIL was created to oversee the withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon after a 1978 invasion. The U.N. expanded its mission following the 2006 war, allowing peacekeepers to deploy along the Lebanon-Israel border to help the Lebanese military extend their authority into their country’s south for the first time in decades. That resolution also called for a full cessation of Israeli-Hezbollah hostilities, which has not happened.

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