United Nations secretary general condemns explosion that injured UN observers in southern Lebanon | Lebanon

Posted by

The UN secretary general, António Guterres, has condemned an explosion that left three UN military observers and a Lebanese interpreter wounded when a shell exploded near them while they were patrolling the southern Lebanese border.

The blast came as clashes between the Israeli military and Hezbollah militants escalated in recent weeks.

Both sides have been exchanging fire since war broke out between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Three UN Truce Supervision Organization (Untso) “military observers and one Lebanese language assistant on a foot patrol along the Blue Line were injured when an explosion occurred near their location”, UN Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil) spokesperson Andrea Tenenti said in a statement on Saturday.

The wounded were “evacuated for medical treatment”, Tenenti added.

Peacekeepers from Unifil patrol the so-called Blue Line, the border demarcated by the UN in 2000 when Israeli troops pulled out of southern Lebanon.

The Untso supports the peacekeeping mission.

Norway’s defence ministry said a Norwegian UN observer was “lightly injured” and had been admitted to hospital.

“The circumstances surrounding the attack are unclear,” defence ministry spokesperson Hanne Olafsen told Norwegian news agency NTB.

Tenenti told AFP that the other two observers were from Australia and Chile, adding that all four wounded were in “stable” condition while Australia’s defence department said the Australian’s injuries were not life-threatening.

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.

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

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 were unarmed, he said.

Unifil is “investigating the origin of the explosion” but it was difficult to put investigators on the ground immediately because of the ongoing exchange of fire, added Tenenti.

“Safety and security of UN personnel must be guaranteed,” Tenenti said, urging “all actors to cease the current heavy exchanges of fire before more people are unnecessarily hurt.”

A UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said António Guterres condemned the explosion and expressed “grave concern” at the daily exchanges of fire between armed groups in Lebanon and Israeli forces.

“These hostile actions have not only disrupted the livelihoods of thousands of people, but they also pose a grave threat to the security and stability of Lebanon, Israel, and the region,” Dujarric said.

Guterres urges all action to refrain from further violations of the 2006 cessation of hostilities “and to pursue a diplomatic solution to the crisis”, Dujarric said, adding that the UN chief stands ready to support such efforts.

Lebanese caretaker prime minister Najib Mikati also 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 UN expanded its mission after 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.

With Associated Press, Australian Associated Press and Agence France-Presse