Locals welcome back Irish troops
Lebanese happy at return, but tough tasks lie ahead
Published 21/07/2011 | 05:00
The locals in south Lebanon have made it clear they are very pleased that the Irish peacekeeping troops are back in town.
A battalion of 440 Irish soldiers have moved into the town of Tibnin, near the site of their old Camp Shamrock base.
It may be 10 years since Irish troops last served in the region, but locals still remember them fondly. One local merchant in Tibnin put up a large banner proclaiming, 'Welcome back Irish Batt'.
Last night, the Irish remembered their 47 colleagues who died while on previous peacekeeping missions to Lebanon with a special Mass.
The troops face some highly sensitive tasks, according to the force commander Major General Alberto Asarta Cuevas.
"There are some hot spots in the Irish area of operation," he warned. "In this country the situation can change in 24 hours."
He said the Irish had taken on a very difficult part of the Unifil area of operations, but he was proud to have them among the multi-national force.
The Spanish general pointed out that the Irish brought experience to the mission as they had served previously in south Lebanon for 23 years from 1978.
"Your experience in this area is very, very important to me," General Asarta added.
He said that with the Arab Spring, the death of Osama Bin Laden and the changes in Syria, the situation was evolving.
He said he did not believe Hizbollah posed any threat as they had signed up to the UN resolution that mandated the current mission.