UNIFIL armored trucks driving through southern Lebanon (video snippet)

An Australian Defense Force member is currently recuperating after sustaining serious injuries from an explosion that occurred in southern Lebanon. The incident took place while the member was engaged in a peacekeeping mission as part of the UNIFIL (United Nations International Force in Lebanon). The Defense Department, while confirming the incident on Sunday, assured that the injuries sustained were not life-threatening. Lebanon immediately blamed Israel for the attack, however the Israel Defense Forces has denied that it was responsible for the attack.

Currently, UNIFIL's role is to enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1701 which was unanimously approved by the respective Lebanese and the Israeli cabinets. The UNSC voted on the resolution after the second Lebanon war and it was ratified on August 11, 2006. The resolution calls for Israel's full withdrawal from Lebanon, the disarmament of militias south of Lebanon's Litani River and the removal of Hezbollah from Southern Lebanon. Eighteen years later, only Israel has complied and the UN force has not disarmed Hezbollah, nor overseen their withdrawal from southern Lebanon.

The Lebanese Army, which is allowed to be south of the Litani River has no control over the terror group either, and often defers to the militants. According to numerous intelligence reports, Hezbollah has missile and rocket stores all across the area, and often prevents UNIFIL from inspecting suspected sites. Many of the weapons Hezbollah have used to attack Israel since October 8th, 2023 have failed and landed in Lebanese territory, it is suspected that the rocket that hit the UN patrol came from the north based on radar trajectory reports, and it is quite plausible that it was an errant missile intended for Israel. There are instances where Hezbollah have actively engaged UN forces as well, however there is no indication that this was deliberate. That did not stop Lebanon and Hezbollah officials from blaming the Jewish State.

The Australian serviceman was participating in Operation Paladin, a commitment by Australia dating back to the post 1948 Arab-Israeli war to back the United Nations in supervising ceasefires across a range of Middle Eastern countries including Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. Specifically, the mission in question, UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon), has its peacekeepers stationed in southern Lebanon to oversee and mitigate tensions between Lebanon and Israel.

Following the unfortunate event on Saturday, the injured peacekeeper was swiftly transported to a health facility located within a nearby military base. After receiving necessary treatment, the individual has been discharged and is on the path to recovery. The Defense Department spokesperson highlighted that measures are being actively taken to ensure the well-being and safety of the peacekeeper involved.

During the incident, the Australian was accompanied by two UN military observers and a Lebanese translator, all part of a routine patrol aimed at observing activities near the Israel-Lebanon border. Another individual, who remained with their vehicle, fortunately did not suffer any injuries.

The backdrop to this incident is a series of exchanges of fire that have been occurring since October between the Israeli military and Hezbollah, an armed Lebanese group, along the Blue Line—the demarcation line between Lebanon and Israel. These hostilities coincide with the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

Both UNIFIL and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have publicly condemned the shelling, implying that Israel was the perpetrator without outright blaming them. Both emphasized that peacekeepers should never be targets. Andrea Tenenti, a spokesperson for UNIFIL, announced that an investigation is in progress to identify the perpetrators of the explosion. Tenenti also underscored the necessity of ensuring the safety of UN personnel and called on all involved parties to adhere to international humanitarian law, which mandates the protection of non-combatants, including peacekeepers, journalists, medical workers, and civilians. In his statement, Tenenti urged for an immediate cessation of the hostilities to prevent further casualties.

While the perpetrator of the attack remains unidentified, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) has categorically denied any involvement in striking a UNIFIL vehicle near Rmeish, as per their statement.

In a related development, Australia's Foreign Minister Penny Wong has voiced a strong appeal to the Israeli government, urging it to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza amidst the escalating crisis. Speaking to Sky News, Wong highlighted the dire need for assistance in Gaza and reiterated the call for the Netanyahu administration to facilitate aid delivery to the beleaguered territory, underscoring the urgent humanitarian requirements of its residents. The Prime Minister's call though is seen as tone deaf as Israel has been letting in the aid, however it is the United Nations that have not been able to keep up with the volume of trucks. Many trucks inspected by Israel sit for a day or two before they are brought to humanitarian centers in Gaza.

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