Security forces seeking arrest of two suspects over attack on UNIFIL

The evidence suggests the involvement of two shooters in the deadly attack on UNIFIL near al-Aqbiyeh and security forces are now seeking the arrest of the two suspects, a Lebanese judicial source said.

The UNIFIL convoy came under fire late Wednesday, which left one Irish peacekeeper dead and three others wounded, the Irish military said.

UNIFIL acts as a buffer between Lebanon and Israel. The force operates in the south near the border, a stronghold of Iran-backed Hezbollah.

Force spokesman Andrea Tenenti called it "a very serious incident" and told reporters it was "important" for the Lebanese authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice.

It is the first death of a UNIFIL member in a violent incident in Lebanon since January 2015, when a Spanish peacekeeper was killed by Israeli fire.

UNIFIL was set up in 1978 to monitor the withdrawal of Israeli forces after they invaded Lebanon under the excuse of a Palestinian attack.

Israel withdrew from south Lebanon in 2000 but fought a devastating 2006 war with Hezbollah.

UNIFIL was beefed up to oversee the ceasefire that ended the 2006 conflict, and now counts nearly 10,000 troops.

- Bullet to the head -

Witnesses said villagers in the al-Aqbiyeh area blocked the Irish peacekeepers vehicle after it took a road along the Mediterranean coast not normally used by the United Nations force.

Al-Aqbiyeh is just outside UNIFIL's area of operations, the force said.

A Lebanese judicial source told AFP that the driver was killed by a bullet to the head, one of seven that penetrated the vehicle.

The three passengers were wounded when the vehicle hit a pylon and overturned.

The Irish army is to send military police to Lebanon on Saturday to help with the investigation.

Over the years, there have been a number of incidents between Hezbollah supporters and U.N. peacekeepers but they have rarely escalated.

Wafiq Safa, Hezbollah's security chief, told Lebanon's LBCI television on Thursday that the incident was "unintentional" and called for investigators to be given time to establish the facts.

Relations between UNIFIL and communities in south Lebanon have always been "very positive," the force's spokesman Tenenti said Friday.

"The support of the communities is paramount in order for us to implement our mandate," he added.

Source: Agence France Presse, Naharnet

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