20 April, 2024
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ADF member recovering after Israel-Lebanon border blast

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An Australian Defence Force member is recovering after being seriously injured in an explosion in southern Lebanon while on a peacekeeping mission.

The serving member’s injuries are not life-threatening, the Defence Department confirmed to AAP on Sunday.

The member was deployed as part of Operation Paladin, under which Australia supports the UN organisation overseeing truces across Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

 The base for UN peacekeeping forces at the border in southern Lebanon, in the village of Markaba. Image by AP PHOTO 

The peacekeeping mission, known as UNIFIL, is stationed in southern Lebanon to monitor hostilities between Lebanon and Israel.

The member was transported to a health centre at a nearby military base for treatment after being injured on Saturday and has since been released to recover, a Defence Department spokesperson said.   

“Defence is taking the appropriate steps to ensure the safety and welfare of the member,” they added.

The Australian, who was with two UN military observers and a Lebanese translator, was undertaking a routine patrol to monitor activity near the Israeli-Lebanon border.

A fifth person who remained with the vehicle was uninjured.

Lebanese armed group Hezbollah has been trading fire with the Israeli military across the demarcation line between Lebanon and Israel, known as the Blue Line, since October in parallel with the war in Gaza.

UNIFIL and UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres have condemned the shelling, saying the targeting of peacekeepers is unacceptable.

UNIFIL spokesman Andrea Tenenti said in a statement an investigation is underway to discover who was responsible.

“Safety and security of UN personnel must be guaranteed,” Mr Tenenti said.

“All actors have a responsibility under international humanitarian law to ensure protection to non-combatants, including peacekeepers, journalists, medical personnel, and civilians.

“We repeat our call for all actors to cease the current heavy exchanges of fire before more people are unnecessarily hurt.”

The source of the attack is still known but the Israel Defence Force has denied involvement.

“Contrary to the reports, the IDF did not strike a UNIFIL vehicle in the area of Rmeish this morning,” it said in a statement overnight.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Penny Wong has reiterated Australia’s call on the Israeli government to allow aid into the besieged Gaza Strip as the humanitarian situation worsens.

“We know that people are in desperate need,” she told Sky News on Sunday.

“I again reiterate the need for the Netanyahu government to allow aid to Gaza.”

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