Troops prepare for Lebanon mission

Irish troops will be put through their paces today ahead of their deployment to Lebanon.

Irish troops will be put through their paces today ahead of their deployment to Lebanon.

The 440 members of the Defence Forces will be the second army of soldiers to serve as peacekeepers in the Middle East.

The 105th Battalion are undergoing the final phase of intense training in the Glen of Imaal in preparation of their mission in November.

They will take over duties from the 104th Battalion, who have been serving as part of the United Nations-mandated operation since June.

The Defence Forces said the Battalion have been in training for the past three months under Lieutenant Colonel Philip Brennan.

It has culminated in a Mission Readiness Exercise, which put commanders and soldiers through a demanding series of scenarios based on the current situation in Lebanon and potential threats that may be encountered in the mission area.

Exercises feature simulated explosions, helicopters, armoured personnel carriers and troops using a variety of advanced weapons systems.

President Mary McAleese recently visited the troops in Camp Shamrock in Tibnin on her last official trip overseas, where she paid tribute to the 47 Irish soldiers who have lost their lives while on peacekeeping duties in the country.

Irish officers were first sent to Lebanon as observers in 1958, with the first battalion sent as part of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in 1978, formed after Israeli troops occupied the region.

The main Defence Forces battalion was withdrawn in 2001 following 23 years of service but was deployed again in 2006 for 12 months.

The current deployment is initially for 12 months, subject to renewal, and Ireland’s participation will not exceed a maximum of three to four years.

The Irish area of operations measures some 140km sq (87 miles sq) extending in the Hezbollah-controlled country from Tibnin to the border with Israel.

Their role involves the protection of civilians, extensive mobile patrolling throughout the Irish area of operations, ground holding and monitoring along the blue line.

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