Wednesday, January 28, 2015

UN ‘blue helmet’ killed near site of Lebanon-Israel cross-fire; investigation under way

28 January 2015 – A United Nations peacekeeper with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed today near the border with Israel but the precise cause of death is as yet undetermined and remains the subject of investigation, according to a statement issued by the mission.
"At around 11:30 am this morning, UNIFIL observed six rockets launched towards Israel from the vicinity of Wazzani north of Maysat in the UNIFIL area of operations," the peacekeeping operation said in a statement. "The IDF [Israel Defense Forces] returned artillery fire in the same general area."
"During the course of the developments, a UNIFIL peacekeeper deployed at a UN position near Ghajar sustained serious injuries that resulted in his death," according to UNIFIL. "The precise cause of death is as yet undetermined and remains the subject of investigation."
The UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Sigrid Kaag, expressed deep concern over the serious deterioration of the security situation in South Lebanon following the exchange of fire. She urgently called on all parties to refrain from any actions that could destabilize the situation further.
Ms. Kaag strongly urged all parties to continue to abide by their obligations under Security Council resolution 1701, which called for the full cessation of hostilities in the month-long 2006 war between Israel and Hizbollah in Lebanon.
UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander Major-General Luciano Portolano was in immediate contact with the parties to help control the situation and prevent further escalation, it said.
The Force Commander has strongly condemned this serious violation of UN Security Council resolution 1701. He is maintaining continuous contacts with the parties and has urged both sides to exercise utmost restraint.
UNIFIL has launched an investigation to determine the facts and circumstances of the incident.
UNIFIL also reported that at around 1:30 p.m. today, five rockets were fired from the general area of Kafer Shouba towards Israel, and the IDF fired artillery rounds towards the source of fire. UNIFIL said it has been informed by the IDF that they incurred casualties as a result of fire from the Lebanese side.
The 10,000-strong UN peacekeeping operation in Lebanon has further reinforced its presence on the ground and intensified patrols across the area of operations in coordination with the Lebanese Armed Forces.