U.N. peacekeeper dies in attack on convoy in southern Lebanon

U.N. peacekeepers and Lebanese soldiers investigating attack scene
United Nations peacekeepers and Lebanese soldiers investigate the scene of a gun attack on a convoy in southern Lebanon on Thursday.
(Mohammad Zaatari / Associated Press)

A United Nations peacekeeper from Ireland was killed and several other soldiers were wounded after 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 U.N. peacekeeping troops were fired on as they drove north toward Beirut on 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.


The U.N. peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon, UNIFIL, confirmed that one peacekeeper was killed and three were wounded but did not share further details.

“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 Lebanese military and trying to “determine exactly what happened.”

A source familiar with the investigation who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter said that the armored vehicle carrying the peacekeepers had rolled over while trying to escape after locals began shooting.

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Local residents were angered and became aggressive when two UNIFIL armored vehicles, which were heading to the Beirut airport, took a detour through Al Aqbiya, which is not part of the area under UNIFIL’s mandate, the source said.

It is not yet clear whether the soldier who died was killed by gunfire or by wounds sustained in the crash, the source said.

Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry condemned the incident, and the office of Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati called for an investigation.


“He praised the sacrifices that UNIFIL forces made to maintain peace in the south, which reflects stability for the people of the region and Lebanon in general,” a statement from Mikati’s office said.

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Irish Prime Minister Micheal 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.

Cellphone videos circulated online show 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 that the vehicle had rolled over after crashing into the aluminum shutters of a building, with a wounded peacekeeper on the ground beside it.

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

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 its authority into the 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.