Lebanon advance party sets up HQ for troops
AN advance party of 90 peacekeepers flew out to Beirut yesterday to pave the way for the arrival of the first Irish battalion to serve in Lebanon in a decade.
After 23 years as part of the Unifil peace mission, the troops pulled out of south Lebanon in 2001. They are now returning to an area where some of the local faces will be familiar but their role will be very different.
The advance party consists of security and logistics personnel, including weapons, ammunition and communications experts. Their main task is to establish an Irish headquarters in Tibnin, where the Irish were previously based -- although they will not be returning to Camp Shamrock.
The headquarters must be operational before the rest of the 440-strong battalion deploy on June 23 and 27.
At the same time as the party left the Irish Air Corps base at Baldonnel, a convoy of 36 armoured vehicles was travelling along the N7 from Kildare to Ringaskiddy in Co Cork, from where they will be shipped to Lebanon.
Irish duties will include patrolling the "blue line" dividing Lebanon and northern Israel with an emphasis on mobile patrolling, particularly alongside Lebanese armed forces.
The battalion's commanding officer, Lieut Col Frank Bolger, told the Irish Independent that his troops were fully prepared and equipped for service.
The current risk assessment in Lebanon is low but because of the high volatility of the region, this will be the best-equipped battalion to be sent overseas.
The armoury includes Javelin anti-tank missiles, with a range of 2,500 metres, 120mm mortars and recently purchased armoured Jeeps.
The initial deployment will be for five months for logistical reasons but the battalions will then rotate on a six-monthly basis.
The Irish area of operations will extend some 140sq km from Tibnin to the blue line, where the troops will occupy two smaller observer posts.