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14 UN peacekeepers injured in Lebanon protest

world Updated: Jul 19, 2009 13:01 IST

AFP
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Fourteen UN peacekeepers were injured in south Lebanon on Saturday when protesters tried to stop an investigation into an arms cache that exploded in a Hezbollah stronghold last week, a spokeswoman said.

“During the entire course of the incident, 14 UNIFIL soldiers were lightly injured and some UNIFIL vehicles were damaged, among them one ambulance from the investigation team,” spokeswoman Yasmina Bouziane told AFP.

Ammunition stored in an abandoned house in the village of Khirbet Selm, 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the Israeli border, exploded on Tuesday. The area is widely considered to be a Hezbollah stronghold.

The UN had launched an investigation into the cause of the blast in coordination with the Lebanese army, and Bouziane said around 100 people gathered on Saturday and tried to stop it by throwing stones at the troops.

UNIFIL -- the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon -- called for reinforcements and one patrol was forced to fire warning shots into the air befire it could pass, she added.

The peacekeeping force has said the blasts marked a “serious violation” of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended a devastating 34-day war between Israel and the Shiite militant group in the summer of 2006.

Hezbollah has refused to disarm although Resolution 1701 reaffirms the need for militias in Lebanon to turn in their weapons. The Shiite group argues that its arsenal is needed to defend the country against Israel.

Lebanese soldiers deployed in the south in the wake of the 2006 war for the first time in 30 years.

UNIFIL, set up in 1978 to monitor the border between Israel and Lebanon, was considerably expanded after the 2006 conflict, which Israel launched after Hezbollah captured two of its soldiers in a deadly cross-border raid.