Lebanon: UNIFIL incident leaves 1 dead, investigation underway
UNIFIL and the Irish Defense Forces announce the death of a soldier from the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Lebanon after a two-vehicle convoy was involved in a traffic accident.
Al Mayadeen's correspondent in Beirut reported that a UNIFIL vehicle was involved in a traffic accident at night in the town of Al-Aqibiya, near Sidon after the people of the town protested against the convoy straying far from its route.
Our correspondent added, "The accident resulted in the vehicle overturning and the injury of 4 UNIFIL members, who were then transferred to Hammoud Hospital in Sidon," stressing that "UNIFIL personnel fired live bullets in the air in response to the protest of the people."
For its part, UNIFIL announced, in a statement, the death of one of its members and the injury of others in an "incident south of Beirut, the details of which are still conflicted," noting that it is "coordinating with the Lebanese army," and has "launched an investigation to determine what happened specifically in the town of Al-Aqibiya."
Furthermore, the Irish Defense Forces. on their end, announced in a statement that "an Irish soldier from the United Nations peacekeeping mission was killed in Lebanon late yesterday evening, Wednesday," adding that the soldier "was killed when the convoy of two armored vehicles came under small arms fire."
The statement also noted that "the two vehicles, which were carrying eight soldiers, were heading to Beirut."
The condition of another member of the Irish peacekeeping mission "is serious," although he underwent surgery after the incident. The other two soldiers "are receiving treatment after suffering minor injuries."
The narrative as reported
The Lebanese newspaper, Al-Akhbar, noted that "young men from the region tracked down the vehicle that took the sea route, contrary to the custom that requires UNIFIL convoys to take the highway."
The report read, "The vehicle's passage late and outside the area south of the Litani River at a great distance angered the young men who tried to stop it, but the driver refused to stop and ran over one of the young men's legs, which caused anger among the crowds that surrounded the vehicle."
Moreover, said the report, "At that time, gunfire was recorded, the source of which was not specified, which increased the crowd's anger and prompted the driver to drive through them as fast as possible, before crashing into one of the shops adjacent to the road."
The video clips shared on social media showed the young men trying to rescue the soldiers before members of the Civil Defense came to retrieve the body of the driver.
The Lebanese army and a team from UNIFIL attended to investigate the accident, and according to Al-Akhbar, the investigation will focus on addressing the surviving soldiers regarding the reasoning behind why they passed in this area on their way to Beirut and why they did not follow through with the convoy that did take the highway route.
Lebanese officials comment on the incident
Lebanese PM Najib Mikati said, "We call on all sides to act wisely and patiently during this critical stage." While the Lebanese Foreign Ministry stressed "the importance of preserving the security of the UN peacekeeping missions in Lebanon."
Reuters reported that a Senior Hezbollah official, Wafiq Safa, said the "unintentional incident" led to the Irish soldier's death and stressed that Hezbollah is not involved in this incident whatsoever.
Safa explained that Hezbollah offers its condolences "after the unintentional incident that took place between the residents of al-Aqibiya and individuals from the Irish peacekeeping unit."
To conclude, Safa urged that Hezbollah not be "inserted" into the incident, reaffirming that the political party was uninvolved in the tragic incident.
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