U.N. military observers, Lebanese interpreter wounded while patrolling southern Lebanese border, officials say

March 31, 2024
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Three United Nations military observers and a Lebanese interpreter were wounded Saturday while patrolling the southern Lebanese border after a shell exploded near them, the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Lebanon said.

The military observers are part of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization, which supports the U.N. peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon, UNIFIL. UNIFIL spokesperson Andrea Tenenti told The Associated Press that the four wounded were in stable condition.

Tenenti said UNIFIL had informed all warring parties of their patrols as usual and the observers’ vehicle was carrying clear UN markings. The three military observers, from Chile, Australia, and Norway, were unarmed, he said.

The blast came as clashes between the Israeli military and Hezbollah militants escalated in recent weeks. Both sides have been exchanging fire since the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza broke out, propelling concerns that the near-daily clashes along the border could escalate into a full-scale war.

Local Lebanese media, citing security officials, said an Israeli drone strike targeted the observers in the southern village of Wadi Katmoun near the border town of Rmeich.

The Israeli military on social media platform X, formerly Twitter, said: “Contrary to the reports, the IDF did not strike a @UNIFIL —vehicle in the area of Rmeish this morning.”

Tenenti said UNIFIL was “investigating the origin of the explosion” but it was difficult to put investigators on the ground immediately because of the ongoing exchange of fire.

“The targeting of peacekeepers is unacceptable,” Tenenti told The Associated Press. “We repeat our call for all actors to cease the current heavy exchanges of fire before more people are unnecessarily hurt.”

Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikat condemned the incident in a statement.

UNIFIL was created to oversee the withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon after Israel’s 1978 invasion. The U.N. expanded its mission following the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, allowing peacekeepers to deploy along the Israeli border to help the Lebanese military extend its authority into the country’s south for the first time in decades.

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