UNIFIL says Israeli gunfire hit one of its patrols in southern Lebanon

The UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon said Israeli fire hit one of its patrols in the country’s south on Saturday, despite a Hamas-Israel truce largely quietening the Lebanon-Israel frontier.

“At around 12:00 pm, a UNIFIL patrol was hit by IDF (Israeli army) gunfire” in the vicinity of Aitarun, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon said in a statement.

“No peacekeepers were injured, but the vehicle was damaged,” it said, adding that “this incident occurred during a period of relative calm” along the border between Israel and Lebanon.

Since the Israel-Hamas war began on October 7, the frontier between Lebanon and Israel has seen intensifying exchanges of fire, mainly between Israel and Shia Muslim movement Hezbollah, but also Palestinian groups, raising fears of a broader conflagration.

A four-day truce between Israel and Hamas began on Friday, and a source close to Hezbollah told AFP that the Iran-backed group would also adhere to the ceasefire if Israel did.

UNIFIL said “this attack on peacekeepers, dedicated to reducing tensions and restoring stability in south Lebanon, is deeply troubling,” adding: “We condemn this act.”

Late last month, shelling lightly wounded a UN peacekeeper near the border village of Hula, just hours after UNIFIL said a shell hit its headquarters in Naqura near the Israel-Lebanon frontier.

The force said it was investigating those incidents.

“We strongly remind the parties of their obligations to protect peacekeepers and avoid putting the men and women who are working to restore stability at risk,” Saturday’s UNIFIL statement said.

Cross-border fire has killed 109 people in Lebanon, including 77 Hezbollah fighters and 14 civilians, three of them journalists, according to an AFP count.

Six Israeli soldiers and three civilians have been killed on the Israeli side, according to the authorities.

Since the Israel-Hamas truce went into effect, calm has largely returned to Lebanon’s southern border.

UNIFIL was set up in 1978 to monitor the withdrawal of Israeli forces after they invaded Lebanon in reprisal for a Palestinian attack.

It was bolstered after Hezbollah and Israel fought a devastating war in 2006, and its roughly 10,000 peacekeepers are tasked with monitoring the ceasefire between the two sides.

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