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Irish Defence Forces

Irish troops safe in bomb shelters as Israel attacks targets north of UNIFIL camp

Israel launched airstrikes and artillery attacks in response to rockets fired from south Lebanon.

IRISH TROOPS WERE forced to shelter in bomb proof bunkers yesterday and overnight as Israeli jets attacked targets inside Lebanon in response to militants firing rockets into Israel.   

An Irish Defence Forces spokeswoman has said that all Irish troops are safe and the Israeli response to the rockets had not targeted the immediate operational area of the Irish troops. 

The United Nations missions, UNIFIL, did confirm earlier today that the Israeli forces had targeted the south Lebanese city of Tyre which is located just north of the Irish area of responsibility. 

The bombings in Lebanon come as violence has broken out in Israel and Palestine. 

The military spokeswoman said that troops were in “groundhog” – an Irish army phrase meaning that they were inside bomb shelters.    

“The Defence Forces can confirm that all Irish Defence Forces personnel currently serving in Lebanon, on both the UNIFIL and UNTSO overseas missions were in groundhog (this means in the bunkers) from 1500 hours yesterday – 0145 hours as there was rocket firing taking place from Lebanon into Israel.

“At 0420 hours groundhog was called again following IDF retaliation in Lebanon and was stood down at 0910 hours this morning. No kinetic activity (bombing/shelling) took place in IrishPolbatt area of responsibility. All irish personnel are safe and accounted for,” she said. 

The Irish troops are located south of the Litani River in an area between the Syrian and Israeli borders.

Their role in the area is peacekeeping across the Blue Line – a line of withdrawal established in recent years to prevent conflict between Lebanon and Israel. 

UNIFIL released a statement this morning stating that Israel Defence Forces had launched artillery attacks on targets in Tyre. 

“Early this morning, the IDF informed UNIFIL that they will begin an artillery response to yesterday’s rocket launches.

“Immediately after, UNIFIL personnel heard loud explosions around the city of Tyre.

“UNIFIL’s Head of Mission and Force Commander, Major General Aroldo Lázaro, is speaking with authorities on both sides of the Blue Line. Our liaison and coordination mechanisms are fully engaged. Both sides have said they do not want a war.

“The actions over the past day are dangerous and risk a serious escalation. We urge all parties to cease all actions across the Blue Line now,” the statement said.

Security sources, with a knowledge of United Nations operations in the area, have told The Journal, that the UN are awaiting confirmation of which group sent the rockets into Israel. 

The likely suspects, sources said, are either Lebanese militant group Hezbollah or it may be linked to Palestinian refugees aligned to HAMAS. There are tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees in two refugee camps in Tyre – El-Buss and Rashidieh. 

It is understood the targets in Tyre struck farmland and killed livestock. 

Sources have said that dry river beds and farmland are used to conceal missile launch sites by militants.

UNIFIL had in recent weeks halted visits to bases across the area fearing violence would break out. 

Both Israel and Hezbollah have avoided an all-out conflict since a 34-day war in 2006 ended in a draw. 

Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister, Najib Mikati, condemned the firing of rockets from Lebanon, adding that Lebanese troops and UN peacekeepers were investigating and trying to find the perpetrators.

Mikati said his government “categorically rejects any military escalation” and the use of Lebanese territories to stage acts that threaten stability.

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