UN peacekeepers try to stay safe amid Lebanon-Israel border flare-ups

UN peacekeepers try to stay safe amid Lebanon-Israel border flare-ups
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Irish peacekeepers sit together inside a bunker during a Reuters’ visit at Camp Shamrock where Irish and Polish peacekeepers of the UNIFIL are stationed near Maroun Al-Ras village close to the Lebanese-Israeli border, on Nov. 29, 2023. (Reuters)
UN peacekeepers try to stay safe amid Lebanon-Israel border flare-ups
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A UN vehicle drives, during a Reuters’ visit at Camp Shamrock where Irish and Polish peacekeepers of the UNIFIL are stationed near Maroun Al-Ras village close to the Lebanese-Israeli border on Nov. 29, 2023. (Reuters)
UN peacekeepers try to stay safe amid Lebanon-Israel border flare-ups
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Polish peacekeepers stand together at Camp Shamrock where Irish and Polish peacekeepers of the UNIFIL are stationed near Maroun Al-Ras village close to the Lebanese-Israeli border on Nov. 29, 2023. (Reuters)
UN peacekeepers try to stay safe amid Lebanon-Israel border flare-ups
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UN peacekeepers stand together during Reuters' visit at Camp Shamrock where Irish and Polish peacekeepers of the UNIFIL are stationed near Maroun al-Ras village close to the Lebanese-Israeli border, in southern Lebanon on Nov. 29, 2023. (Reuters)
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Updated 30 November 2023
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UN peacekeepers try to stay safe amid Lebanon-Israel border flare-ups

UN peacekeepers try to stay safe amid Lebanon-Israel border flare-ups
  • Troops from the UNIFIL have repeatedly sheltered in bunkers during “intense shelling and rocket launches,” said Lt. Col. Stephen MacEoin
  • He hoped the truce in Gaza between Hamas and Israel would be extended, as it was civilians “who suffer most”

MAROUN AL-RAS, Lebanon: While trying to fulfil their mandate to keep the peace, UN soldiers deployed along Lebanon’s border with Israel during the worst hostilities there in nearly 20 years have another urgent concern: keeping their own forces safe.
Since the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza seven weeks ago, troops from the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) have repeatedly sheltered in bunkers during “intense shelling and rocket launches,” a senior commander said during a Reuters visit to a UNIFIL base in southern Lebanon.
“I’ve got to maintain force protection as a priority while also carrying out the mission,” said Lt. Col. Stephen MacEoin, battalion commander of the Irish and Polish soldiers stationed at Camp Shamrock in the village of Tiri, near Lebanon’s southern border with Israel.
The conflict in Gaza, some 200 km (124 miles) away to the south, has seen Israel and Iran-backed Hezbollah, an ally of Hamas, trading fire daily along the Lebanese-Israeli border.
Israeli attacks have killed about 100 people in Lebanon — 80 of them Hezbollah fighters — since Oct. 7.
MacEoin said he hoped the truce in Gaza between Hamas and Israel would be extended, as it was civilians “who suffer most” from conflict, be it in Lebanon or Gaza, and the violence in Gaza was linked to the situation in southern Lebanon.
“The concerns of the mission are that, after so many weeks of exchanges of fire, now we have a truce, a moment of calm, but that intensive changes of fire can really trigger a much wider cycle of conflict,” said UNIFIL spokesperson Andrea Tenenti.
“This is the real warning and danger that everyone is facing not only in the south but in the region.”
He said UNIFIL communicated with both sides in the flare-ups on the Lebanon-Israel border to try to “de-escalate tensions.”
No peacekeepers have been killed since the escalation of hostilities. But two peacekeepers have been injured in two separate incidents and UNIFIL compounds and bases have been hit and damaged by mortar shells several times, Tenenti told Reuters.
“We’ve had a lot of firing north and south of the Blue Line...a lot of close incidents,” MacEoin said, referring to a 120-km (74 mile) demarcation drawn by the United Nations that marks the line to which Israeli forces withdrew when they left south Lebanon in 2000.
In the latest incident, a UNIFIL patrol was hit by Israeli gunfire in the vicinity of Aytaroun of southern Lebanon, although there were no casualties. The UN force called the attack on “deeply troubling.”
UNIFIL was established by the Security Council in 1978 after Israel invaded Lebanon. Its scope and size were expanded after a 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah that killed 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and 158 Israelis, mostly soldiers.
The force is deployed in southern Lebanon with the primary role of helping maintain international peace and security.
The mission says it currently has about 10,000 troops drawn from 47 countries, and about 800 civilian staff, stationed in 45 positions throughout a 1,060 square km (409 square mile) area between the Litani River and the Blue Line.
Last December, an Irish soldier serving in UNIFIL was killed after the UNIFIL vehicle he was traveling in was fired on as it traveled in southern Lebanon. Seven people were charged by a Lebanese military tribunal in January for his death, the first fatal attack on UN peacekeepers in Lebanon since 2015.
Calm had prevailed on the border since Hamas and Israel agreed a temporary truce that began on Nov. 24. But on Thursday morning the Israeli military said it intercepted an “aerial target” that crossed from Lebanon. Earlier on Thursday the two sides struck a last-minute agreement to extend the truce.


Hezbollah fires new rocket salvo at Israeli base

Hezbollah fires new rocket salvo at Israeli base
Updated 3 sec ago
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Hezbollah fires new rocket salvo at Israeli base

Hezbollah fires new rocket salvo at Israeli base
BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah said it launched a salvo of rockets at an Israeli air control base on Tuesday in retaliation for deadly Israeli strikes on east Lebanon.
Hamas ally Hezbollah has exchanged near-daily fire with the Israeli army since the Gaza war erupted in October, but strikes have been largely restricted to the border area.
Hezbollah said it targeted the “Meron air control base... with a large salvo of rockets from several launchers.”
It said the rocket fire was in response to Israel’s first strikes of the war on eastern Lebanon.
Israel struck Hezbollah targets near the city of Baalbek, killing two of its fighters, security sources said. The Israeli army said it targeted Hezbollah air defenses after the group downed one of its drones.
In retaliation, Hezbollah already fired 60 rockets at an Israeli base in the annexed Golah Heights on Monday.
Cross-border exchanges since October have killed at least 284 people on the Lebanese side, most of them Hezbollah fighters but also including 44 civilians, according to an AFP tally.
On the Israeli side, 10 soldiers and six civilians have been killed, according to the Israeli army.

Israeli team in Qatar in last push for Gaza peace deal

Israeli team in Qatar in last push for Gaza peace deal
Updated 27 February 2024
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Israeli team in Qatar in last push for Gaza peace deal

Israeli team in Qatar in last push for Gaza peace deal

JEDDAH: A high-level Israeli delegation arrived on Monday in Qatar, where political leaders of Hamas are based, as the combatants in the Gaza war closed in on a ceasefire and hostage deal that the US says is now within reach.
The presence of both sides suggested talks were further along than at any time since a big push at the start of February, when Israel rejected a Hamas proposal as “delusional.”
In public, both sides continue to blame each other. Israel says it will agree only to a temporary pause in fighting to secure the release of hostages. Hamas says it will not free them without a permanent end to the war.
After meeting Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said the group had embraced mediators’ efforts to find an end to the war, and accused Israel of stalling while Gazans die under siege. “We will not allow the enemy to use negotiations as a cover for this crime,” he said.
Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said any ceasefire agreement would require “securing an end to the aggression, the withdrawal of the occupation, the returning of the displaced, the entry of aid, shelter equipment, and rebuilding.”
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was ready for a deal, and it was up to Hamas to drop demands he described as “outlandish” and “from another planet.”
Israel is under pressure from the US to agree on a truce to prevent a threatened assault on Rafah in southern Gaza.


Israeli forces kill three Palestinians in West Bank clashes, WAFA says

Israeli forces kill three Palestinians in West Bank clashes, WAFA says
Updated 27 February 2024
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Israeli forces kill three Palestinians in West Bank clashes, WAFA says

Israeli forces kill three Palestinians in West Bank clashes, WAFA says

CAIRO: Three Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in clashes in the occupied West Bank early on Tuesday, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA said.
At least 400 Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers and settlers since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas gunmen.


At least 10 killed after ferry sinks in Egypt’s Nile

At least 10 killed after ferry sinks in Egypt’s Nile
Updated 56 min 3 sec ago
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At least 10 killed after ferry sinks in Egypt’s Nile

At least 10 killed after ferry sinks in Egypt’s Nile
  • Many Egyptians make their way using boats on a daily basis, especially in Upper Egypt and the Nile Delta

CAIRO: A ferry carrying day laborers sank in the Nile just outside the Egyptian capital, killing at least 10 of the 15 people on board, authorities said Monday.
The five who survived were transported to a hospital and later discharged, the Ministry of Manpower said in a statement. The cause of the sinking was not made immediately clear.
The ministry allocated compensation of 200,000 Egyptian pounds (around $6,466) to each family of the deceased and 20,000 ($646) to each of the five injured.
The laborers were on their way to work at a local construction firm. It took rescue teams hours to recover the bodies, according to local media which aired live-stream videos on social media platforms showing divers searching for the dead as villagers waited on the Nile banks.
The incident took place in the town of Monshat el-Kanater in Giza, which is one of three provinces forming Greater Cairo.
Many Egyptians make their way using boats on a daily basis, especially in Upper Egypt and the Nile Delta. Sailing along the Nile is also a favorite pastime during holidays in the Arab world’s most populous country.
Ferry, railway and road accidents are common in Egypt mainly because of poor maintenance and the lack of regulations.
In 2022, two people died and eight went missing after a small truck they were riding in slid off a ferry and plunged into the Nile. And in 2015, 35 people died in a collision between a passenger boat and a scow on the Nile.

 


France reiterates support for Morocco’s Western Sahara plan

France reiterates support for Morocco’s Western Sahara plan
Updated 27 February 2024
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France reiterates support for Morocco’s Western Sahara plan

France reiterates support for Morocco’s Western Sahara plan
  • The foreign minister’s visit comes after a series of diplomatic tensions between Rabat and Paris, the former colonial power which is home to a large diaspora

RABAT: France’s Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne, during a trip to Morocco intended to warm strained relations, on Monday reiterated French support of Morocco’s autonomy plan for disputed Western Sahara.
The former Spanish colony is largely controlled by Morocco but claimed by the Algeria-backed Polisario Front, which in 2020 declared a “self-defense war” and seeks the territory’s independence.
The United Nations considers Western Sahara a “non-self-governing territory.”
“This is an existential issue for Morocco. We know it,” Sejourne said during a press conference alongside his Moroccan counterpart, Nasser Bourita.
Sejourne said Morocco can count on France’s “clear and constant support” for its autonomy plan.
Rabat advocates limited autonomy for the vast desert territory which is home to abundant phosphates and fisheries.
Sejourne told journalists he wanted to support Moroccan efforts in developing the area.
“Morocco has invested a lot in development projects for the benefit of the local population and in terms of training, renewable energies, tourism,” and the use of ocean resources, he said.
The foreign minister’s visit comes after a series of diplomatic tensions between Rabat and Paris, the former colonial power which is home to a large diaspora.
Moroccans have been particularly upset by President Emmanuel Macron’s desired rapprochement with Algeria.
Sejourne proposed on Monday a partnership with Morocco focussed over the next 30 years on renewable energies, training and industrial development.
Morocco’s Bourita said “France is a distinguished partner of Morocco on the political, economic and humanitarian levels.”
The Polisario continues to demand a UN-supervised referendum on self-determination, which was agreed in a 1991 ceasefire accord after a 15-year war between the Front and Morocco. The referendum has still not taken place.
In late 2020 then-US president Donald Trump recognized Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara in return for Rabat’s normalization of ties with Israel. Morocco has since then pursued an increasingly intense diplomatic effort to win over other countries.