By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — A County Mayo soldier has become the Irish army’s 18th Irish soldier killed in action during 21 years of service with the UNIFIL peace-keeping force in South Lebanon after a mortar shell landed on an outpost near the village of Barashit at the weekend.
Private William Kedian, 22, from Station Road, Ballyhaunis, is believed to have been within feet of taking cover when he was killed.
He joined the army in 1996 and was on his second tour of duty with the UNIFIL contingent.
Another soldier, Private Ronald Rush, 22, from Castledaly, Boggadh, Co. Offaly, was seriously injured in the incident and was airlifted to a hospital at Haifa in Isr’l.
Both soldiers are stationed with the army’s 1st Battalion at Renmore, Co. Galway, and had taken up UNIFIL duty with the 85th Battalion last month.
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A UN investigation is under way and ordnance officers have carried out a crater analysis at the site of the explosion in an effort to find out who was responsible.
An army spokesman said the mortar fire resulted from hostilities between "armed elements" — resistance groups like the pro-Iranian Hezbollah and Amal militia — and "de-facto forces" — Isr’li-backed surrogate forces. It has since been determined that the mortar was fired by Isr’li-backed forces.
Armored ambulances were quickly on the scene from the Irish headquarters at Camp Shamrock.
"We were not directly in the firing line of the attack that was going on," an army spokesman said. "It was on the other side of the village. One round landed 15 meters from the post and the second round, unfortunately, landed within the perimeter of the post."
Hostilities have stepped up in the area ahead of the expected withdrawal of the Isr’li-backed South Lebanon Army militia from the Jezzine area north of Isr’l’s self-declared security zone.