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A file photo of Irish troops in South Lebanon. Irish Defence Forces
irish peacekeepers

Irish troops take shelter as Israeli shelling hits southern Lebanon and journalist is killed

The shelling was in response to Hezbollah fire that was sent into Israel from south Lebanon.

LAST UPDATE | 13 Oct 2023

IRISH TROOPS HAVE taken shelter in bunkers as Israel launched attacks near their base in south Lebanon as Israeli troops traded fire with Hezbollah militants in the area. 

It is understood Israeli artillery hit a Reuters news crew who were streaming live.

A group of journalists from several outlets were near Alma al-Shaab in south Lebanon close to the border when they were hit by Israeli fire. Several journalists were wounded and Reuters has confirmed that its reporter journalist Issam Abdallah was killed.

“We are deeply saddened to learn that our videographer, Issam Abdallah, has been killed.

“We are urgently seeking more information, working with authorities in the region, and supporting Issam’s family and colleagues,” the news agency said. 

In a statement on X, formerly Twitter, UNIFIL said: “This evening, at approximately 5.20pm, a heavy exchange of fire erupted between Lebanon and Israel in the vicinity of Alma Shaab, Ayta Ash Shab’, Al Dihaira, El Adeysse and Houla. 

“We are deeply saddened to hear that during this exchange of fire a Lebanesse videographer has been killed with reports of other journalists injured.”

The biggest contingent of Irish troops in the region, 342 in total, is based in south Lebanon in Camp Shamrock in At Tiri as part of United Nations Interim Force Lebanon (UNIFIL).

The Irish Defence Forces said all Irish troops are safe.

There is a second Irish base with a small contingent at an outpost which is located on the Israeli border known at Camp 6-52.

The base overlooks Israeli positions a short few hundred metres away.  

The troops were put into bunkers, or in to groundhog as it is known in the military, also at the nearby coastal UNIFIL headquarters at Naqoura.   

An engagement on Monday near Tyre, just north of the Irish base, saw three Hezbollah fighters killed.

Sources have said that while a majority of the soldiers in the Irish bases take shelter in the bunkers that a team of observers maintain observations.

They report this back into a command and control base and all engagements are documented. 

Irish troops as part of their work with UNIFIL are mandated to assist the local population should people be injured also. 

There are approximately 10,000 troops in the area of operations from many nations including Ireland’s partners Poland. 

This is the second time this week that they have been placed in groundhog following Monday’s incident.

An Irish Defence Forces spokesperson confirmed that UNIFIL personnel have been dealing with several incidents over the last two days. 

“In the last 48 Hrs there have been sporadic exchanges of fires across the Blue Line between Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and Non-State Actors (NSA) in South Lebanon. The intensity of fires has decreased from its height on the 06 and 07 October.

“On several occasions since commencement of hostilities UNIFIL, and specifically IRISHPOLBATT have been subject to Groundhog (taking shelter in protected positions).

“The Irish troops of the 122nd Infantry Battalion in UNIFIL went into GROUNDHOG today at ~1430hrs (GMT) and continue to monitor the situation from protected positions.

“All Irish soldiers are accounted for and are safe. Once safe to do so they will continue to conduct planned framework operations. There are 342 Defence Forces personnel serving with UNIFIL,” the Irish military statement said. 

The Irish Defence Forces said that troops serving in Syria with UNDOF of the 68th Infantry Group are maintaining high state of readiness but it is calm in the area. 

The Irish personnel serving as UN Observers with UNTSO in Israel, Lebanon and Syria are maintaining a high level of vigilance and continue to monitor the situation.

“They are all safe and well and are complying with UN security precautions. This is predominantly focused around, considerations to unnecessary travel. There are 13 Defence Forces personnel serving with UNTSO,” the statement said.