Ireland's Top Diplomat Concerned over Slow Pace of Justice in Peacekeeper's Killing in Lebanon

28 April 2024, Lebanon, Borj El Mlouk: Vehicles from the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) patrol the village of Burj al-Muluk on Lebanon's southern border with Israel. Photo: STR/dpa
28 April 2024, Lebanon, Borj El Mlouk: Vehicles from the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) patrol the village of Burj al-Muluk on Lebanon's southern border with Israel. Photo: STR/dpa
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Ireland's Top Diplomat Concerned over Slow Pace of Justice in Peacekeeper's Killing in Lebanon

28 April 2024, Lebanon, Borj El Mlouk: Vehicles from the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) patrol the village of Burj al-Muluk on Lebanon's southern border with Israel. Photo: STR/dpa
28 April 2024, Lebanon, Borj El Mlouk: Vehicles from the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) patrol the village of Burj al-Muluk on Lebanon's southern border with Israel. Photo: STR/dpa

Ireland’s top diplomat in a visit to Lebanon on Monday expressed his concern over the slow progress in criminal proceedings against several Lebanese men charged with the killing of an Irish peacekeeper in 2022 in the tiny Mediterranean country.
Micheál Martin, Irish foreign and defense minister, said he was “very, very concerned” about the case. He met with Irish peacekeepers in south Lebanon and with Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib and a representative of the Lebanese defense ministry, The Associated Press said.
Lebanon’s military tribunal last June charged four men with the killing of Pvt. Seán Rooney, 24, of Newtown Cunningham, Ireland, following a half-year probe. Rooney was killed on Dec. 14, 2022.
Only one of the suspects, Mohammed Ayyad, was arrested. However, he was released on bail in November, with officials citing his medical condition. The four others facing charges — Ali Khalifeh, Ali Salman, Hussein Salman, and Mustafa Salman — remain at large.
All five are allegedly linked with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Hezbollah has repeatedly denied any role in the killing.
On the fatal night, Rooney and several other Irish soldiers from UNIFIL were on their way from their base in southern Lebanon to the Beirut airport. Two UN vehicles apparently took a detour through Al-Aqbiya, which is not part of the area under the peacekeepers’ mandate.
Initial reports said angry residents confronted the peacekeepers, but the indictment concluded that the shooting was a targeted attack. The UN peacekeeper vehicle reportedly took a wrong turn and was surrounded by vehicles and armed men as they tried to make their way back to the main road.
“We want justice to be done” and for the killers to be “brought to justice,” Martin told reporters. “We understand the separation of powers. But we are concerned at the slow pace of the trial. And the Irish people want justice”
UNIFIL was created to oversee the withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon after Israel’s 1978 invasion, and its mission was expanded following the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.
Relative calm prevailed in the border region after that war until the beginning of Israel’s war against Hamas, a Hezbollah ally, in Gaza in October. For more than seven months, Hezbollah and allied groups have clashed near-daily with Israeli forces, with no apparent immediate prospects for a halt to hostilities.



More than a 100 Killed in Gaza in 24 Hours

Smoke from Israeli bombardment billows in the background near an area previously housing displaced Palestinians leaving Rafah towards Khan Younis on June 20, 2024, in the southern Gaza Strip, amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
Smoke from Israeli bombardment billows in the background near an area previously housing displaced Palestinians leaving Rafah towards Khan Younis on June 20, 2024, in the southern Gaza Strip, amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
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More than a 100 Killed in Gaza in 24 Hours

Smoke from Israeli bombardment billows in the background near an area previously housing displaced Palestinians leaving Rafah towards Khan Younis on June 20, 2024, in the southern Gaza Strip, amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
Smoke from Israeli bombardment billows in the background near an area previously housing displaced Palestinians leaving Rafah towards Khan Younis on June 20, 2024, in the southern Gaza Strip, amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)

 At least 42 people were killed in Israeli attacks on districts of Gaza City in the north of the Palestinian enclave on Saturday, the director of the Hamas-run government media office said.
One Israeli strike on houses in Al-Shati, one of the Gaza Strip's eight historic refugee camps, killed 24 people, Ismail Al-Thawabta told Reuters. Another 18 Palestinians were killed in a strike on houses in the Al-Tuffah neighborhood.

The offensive has left Gaza in ruins, killed more than 37,400 people, of whom 101 were killed in the past 24 hours, according to Palestinian health authorities, and left nearly the entire population homeless and destitute.

The Israeli military released a brief statement saying: "A short while ago, army fighter jets struck two Hamas military infrastructure sites in the area of Gaza City."
It said more details would be released soon.
Hamas did not comment on the Israeli claim to have hit its military infrastructure. It said in a statement the attacks targeted the civilian population and vowed in a statement "the occupation and its Nazi leaders will pay the price for their violations against our people."
Footage obtained by Reuters showed dozens of Palestinians rushing out to search for victims amid the destroyed houses. The footage showed wrecked homes, blasted walls, and debris and dust filling the street in Shati refugee camp.

More than eight months into the war, Israel's advance is now focused on the two last areas its forces had yet to seize: Rafah on Gaza's southern edge and the area surrounding Deir al-Balah in the centre.
Residents said Israeli tanks deepened their incursion into western and northern Rafah areas in recent days. On Saturday Israeli forces bombed several areas from air and the ground, forcing many families living in areas described as humanitarian-designated zones to leave northwards.
The Israeli military said forces continued "precise, intelligence-based" targeted operations in Rafah, killing many Palestinian gunmen and dismantling military infrastructure.
On Friday, the Gaza health ministry said at least 25 Palestinians were killed in Mawasi in western Rafah and 50 wounded. Palestinians said a tank shell hit a tent housing displaced families.