UN observers wounded by shelling in southern Lebanon

2 weeks ago 26

The Christian village of Rmeish in LebanonImage source, Reuters

Image caption,

The village of Rmeish in Lebanon

Three United Nations observers and a translator have been wounded by shelling in Rmeish, southern Lebanon, the UN peacekeeping mission said.

Lebanon's state news agency reported that an Israeli drone strike was behind the explosion, but the Israeli military denied it was responsible.

UNIFIL said those hurt were receiving treatment and that it was investigating the blast's origin.

It comes after rising tensions along the unofficial Israel-Lebanon border.

In a statement, UNIFIL said that three of its observers accompanied by a local translator were wounded by a shell which exploded near them on Saturday.

The peacekeeping mission said the group had been on a foot patrol along the UN-demarcated Blue Line, which divides southern Lebanon from Israel.

It described the targeting of peacekeepers as "unacceptable".

"We heard a blast and then saw a UNIFIL car zipping by. The foreign observers were taken to hospitals in Tyre and Beirut by helicopter and car," the mayor of Rmeish told Reuters, without providing further details on their condition.

He added that he had spoken with the Lebanese translator and confirmed his condition was stable.

Lebanon's state run National News Agency said Israeli "enemy drones" raided the area in southern Lebanon where the observers were wounded.

Israel's military denied this, saying in a statement: "Contrary to the reports, the IDF did not strike a UNIFIL vehicle in the area of Rmeish this morning."

In recent days, tensions have again picked up along the unofficial border between Israel and Lebanon, with heavy exchanges of fire between Israeli forces and Lebanese armed groups and casualties on both sides.

Israel and the armed group Hezbollah trade almost daily strikes across the border, which began with the start of the Israel-Gaza war following the 7 October Hamas attack on Israel.

Hezbollah is a Lebanese Shia Muslim militant group with close ties to Iran and an ally of Hamas.

On Friday, Israel's Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said the IDF would increase its attacks against the group in Lebanon, "shifting from repelling to actively pursuing Hezbollah".

"Wherever they are hiding we will reach them," he said.

He had been speaking a day after Hezbollah fired a barrage of rockets into northern Israel, killing one person, in response to deadly Israeli strikes on a Lebanese village.

Additional reporting by Yolande Knell

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