UPDATE: Israel reported that a column of army vehicles came under attack by Hezbollah forces firing anti-tank rounds on January 28. Two Israeli soldiers died and seven were injured in the attack. When Israeli forces returned fire, a UN peacekeeper was killed. Israel is investigating.
Spain is demanding explanations from Israel, following the death of a Spanish soldier serving with UN observers on the so-called Blue Line that divides Israel from Lebanon. Corporal Francisco Javier Soria Toledo was killed on January 28 by mortar rounds fired by Israeli ground forces. The Israelis had fired in response to an earlier attack by the Shiite Muslim Hezbollah forces that are allied with Iran. The incident took place at approximately 11:30 AM local time in Ghayer, which is approximately 15 miles from Marjajun. The soldier was a member of a unit known as Libertad-Hidalgo. It is at Marjajun that approximately 500 Spanish troops are currently stationed.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy expressed his condolences over the loss of the peacekeeper. His government announced today that it will request a complete investigation of the incident. UN sources have confirmed the soldier’s death. Medics were sent to the scene, but found the soldier had expired. Soria’s body has not yet been recovered. The Israelis ceased fire in order to allow the medical team to return but commenced fire when the team approached the line dividing the two zones. The medics are currently taking cover.
Corporal Soria was a member of the 10th Córdoba Mechanized Infantry Regiment of the Guzmán el Bueno Brigade. He was 36 years old and had joined the army in 2004. This was his second tour in support of United Nations peacekeeping operations.
The attack occurred when Hezbollah terrorists fired several anti-tank missiles from within Lebanese territory at an Israeli army convoy. Israeli forces returned fire with 25 rockets in to the Shebaa area, which is disputed by Syria, Lebanon and Israel.
Speaking for the Spanish peacekeepers, a Spanish source said that Spain’s peacekeepers are on alert. “We have taken to the bunkers as a safety measure and all personnel have been evacuated.
The Israeli embassy in Madrid issued a statement in which it expressed sorrow over the death. “The government of Israel will investigate the incident with maximum rigor. The embassy is in contact with the defense ministries of Israel and Spain. There is a direct line of communication.” According to the embassy, Israeli soldiers responded after coming under fire.
The attack came just 10 days after Israeli helicopters fired on a Hezbollah convoy. Six militants were killed, including a high-ranking Iranian army officer. Hassan Nasrala, the leader of Hezbollah – which is aligned with the Assad regime of Syria – promised to exact revenge. Also, Iran has also promised retribution.
The most recent war between Israel and the Hezbollah organization claimed 1,244 civilian lives (44 Israeli), along with 126 Israeli troops and 600 Hezbollah militants.
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