Attack on UNIFIL: Will Lebanon prove that it was not intended?

Press Highlights
2023-01-16 | 07:22
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Attack on UNIFIL: Will Lebanon prove that it was not intended?
Attack on UNIFIL: Will Lebanon prove that it was not intended?
The Lebanese judiciary will remain under test for many years after it was "devoured by politicization."
One of the recent tests was the case of the prominent port blast case activist William Noon. The latter is a concrete example of the damages and repercussions of politicization.

What happened with Noon resulted from the political decision to obstruct the investigation into the Beirut Port blast that killed his brother, along with the rest of the 220 victims.

These tests will follow

The expected upcoming test is the completion of the investigation into the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) incident in Al-Aqibya, which led to the death of a 22-year-old Irish soldier.

Whatever the circumstances, a crime had been committed, regardless of whether it was intended.

However, the responsibility for the incident goes back to the continuous incitement against those behind the mobilization of the environment in which UNIFIL operates, claiming that its soldiers are "spies on behalf of Israel."

This is what previously led to incidents of attacks on international forces' patrols in the south.

Thus, the Security Council still calls upon the Lebanese authorities to uncover the truth and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Until the Lebanese side releases the results of its investigations, it appears from the preliminary information collected by the international side that their arrangement could lead to the fact that the accident occurred without prior planning. However, determining whether or not this is true depends on the Lebanese judiciary completing its investigations.

Some of the Irish soldiers who were in the two vehicles that set off from the south to Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport, carrying two of their comrades to travel to their country for reasons of death in the family of each of them, had not been more than three weeks since they came to Lebanon to serve alongside the Irish unit. And among them was the dead soldier, Sean Rooney, meaning they still had no experience in the southern situation.

Following their departure from the area of operations of the international forces and the completion of the routine procedures, which include informing the Lebanese army of the mission of the two cars, at its checkpoint at the borders of Litani River, the two "Land Cruisers" vehicles continued their way on the usual road, which leads to the international highway that is usually taken by UNIFIL vehicles.

The first vehicle went this road, but the second, transporting Rooney and his colleagues, was unaware that the first car had taken that direction.

The darkness of that road had a part in the loss of eyesight, given that the second vehicle was moving slower than the lead vehicle.

When the second vehicle arrived at Al-Aqibya, the soldiers realized they had lost their colleagues and took another road.

Therefore, they tried via the GPS device to return to the path that connected them to the international road, but they failed to get out of the town's side streets.

But they took turns in the same geographical area, which they are entirely ignorant of.

However, the young men in the town, riding a car, tried to stop them, but the fear of attack prompted them to continue their way until a car was able to overtake them and block the road from the front, while a second car in which armed men were riding surrounded them from behind.

The driver, Rooney, tried to escape by maneuvering after they were screaming in his face.

Thus UNIFIL vehicle hit one of the two cars that chased it, and some of those inside fired at it. One of the armed men opened its trunk and shot those inside.

The three soldiers lowered their heads, and their injuries were contained to their bodies. In contrast, driver Rooney, who was obliged to drive while attempting to steer his car away from the oncoming gunfire, was unable to do so and was struck in the head.

The fact that the accident occurred quickly did not enable the three soldiers who survived to determine the number of shooters (two were able to give their testimony because the third was in a critical condition and was transferred to his country for treatment later) and the number of those who opened fire.

Additionally, after a while, the first vehicle that crossed the intersection to the international road realized that their colleagues had not caught up with them towards the international highway. So they tried to go back to search for them, but unfortunately, their vehicle broke down due to a puncture in one of the tires.

This caused them to be late while their colleagues were lost in their attempt to return to the South-Beirut highway.

Are these facts sufficient to determine that the incident was unintended?

The two surviving soldiers mentioned these facts to the international investigators, who do not have the right to listen to the Lebanese people who gathered around both UNIFIL vehicles and the shooters who chased them.

Some sources indicated that, unlike prior incidents where it did not care to do so, this time, "Hezbollah" was the first to call the UNIFIL leadership to let them know that it had nothing to do with the incident.

Whatever the outcome of the Lebanese investigation, Hezbollah has a moral responsibility due to the continuous incitement against UNIFIL that it is spying for Israel at a time when its leadership is aware that the Hebrew state does not need UNIFIL to do so.

In parallel, there is a firm conviction that nothing happens in the south without the party's knowledge.

These sources expected the investigation's results to be issued soon, provided that UNIFIL issues a statement in this regard.

The investigation's results should include an explanation from the Lebanese side of the hostility with which the armored men interacted with the Irish soldiers stationed in Lebanon since 1978 (under International Resolution No. 425). 

The Lebanese government asked for this assistance to help it preserve stability in the southern region since the first Israeli invasion in the south. Since the late 1970s up until the time of the incident, the Irish army had already lost roughly 46 soldiers killed while carrying out their duty in southern Lebanon. Ireland is still among the nations that support Lebanon the most, though.
Will Al-Aqibya incident change the stances of the countries participating in UNIFIL, some of which are members of the Security Council?
There are no clear answers in this regard, but the Lebanese side must respond quickly before Irish Defense Minister Simon Coveney visits Lebanon before the end of January.

However, some sources believed that the incident's timing contradicted the positivity that followed the maritime border demarcation deal between Lebanon and Israel.
This deal paves the way for Lebanon to start exploring gas and oil fields, but the investing companies need stability.

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