Irish peacekeeping troops in Lebanon under protection after their operations hit by Israeli mortar fire
IRISH peacekeeping troops have spent several hours under protection in specially constructed bunkers after their area of operations in south Lebanon was struck by Israeli mortar fire.
The peacekeepers, members of the 114th infantry battalion, were caught up in a firefight between the Israeli army and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah faction this afternoon.
Most of the 450-strong battalion went into “groundhog” – taking cover in the bunkers – as mortars and artillery shells fell close to their positions.
But none of the troops was injured and the Defence Forces here said all personnel were safe.
The Israeli army returned fire after one of its bases came under attack from Hezbollah militants using anti tank guided missiles.
The Israelis said a military ambulance also came under attack but there were no casualties.
Hezbollah later took responsibility for the attack and said it had targeted an armoured personnel. It claimed it had destroyed a military vehicle in northern Israel but this was denied by the Israelis.
Tension has been rising in Lebanon over the past month and this has been fuelled by reports that Hezbollah were planning attacks in retaliation for Israeli attacks on Iranian assets, stretching from Iraq to Syria and including the Lebanese capital, Beirut, which was hit by a series of explosions last Sunday.
The current Irish battalion has been in southern Lebanon since May and is due to end its six month rotation in November.
The battalion is currently the biggest Irish deployment overseas on a peace mission.
The Israelis were reported this afternoon to have launched bomb attacks on sites near the Lebanese border town of Maroun al-Ras and the surrounding area, with artillery cannons and attack helicopters firing about 100 shells and bombs.
The Irish battalion comprises troops from 29 counties, with the biggest number (72) being contributed by the 28 infantry battalion, based at Finner Camp in Co Donegal, with others drawn from Dublin, Athlone and Dundalk barracks as well as Gormanston Camp in Co Meath.
The battalion also includes ten soldiers from the armed forces in Malta.