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Lebanese official says landmine wounded UN observers

UN peacekeepers have been deployed in south Lebanon since 1978
— Beirut (AFP)

An ongoing Lebanese army investigation has determined that a landmine wounded three UN military observers and a translator last week, a judicial official said Wednesday, as Israel implicated Hezbollah.

"Preliminary results of a Lebanese army investigation have found that the observers were wounded by a landmine," the Lebanese official told AFP, requesting anonymity as they were not authorised to speak to the media.

The ongoing investigation by the army and peacekeepers from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has yet to determine who planted the mine, the official added, noting three mines were in the area, "one of which exploded".

UNIFIL said that military observers from Australia, Chile and Norway and a Lebanese language assistant were wounded in Saturday's blast.

The observers from the UN Truce Supervision Organization, which supports UNIFIL, had been on a foot patrol along the so-called Blue Line -- the UN-demarcated border between Lebanon and Israel, the peacekeepers said.

Israel's military said Wednesday it had obtained information that indicated a Hezbollah explosive charge had caused the blast.

"According to information available to the (army), the explosion that occurred on March 30... occurred after a UNIFIL patrol passed over a charge that had been previously placed by Hezbollah in the area," army spokesman Avichay Adraee said on X.

A source close to Hezbollah told AFP the Iran-backed group would "certainly not respond to the Israeli accusations", adding that the matter was in the hands of UNIFIL and the army.

UNIFIL spokesperson Andrea Tenenti told AFP that preliminary reports showed "the explosion was not caused by direct or indirect fire".

Lebanon's state-run National News Agency had reported Saturday that an "enemy (Israeli) drone" raided the Rmeish area where the blasts struck.

The Israeli army had told AFP: "We did not strike in the area".

Israel and Hezbollah have exchanged near-daily fire since Palestinian militant group Hamas carried out an unprecedented attack on southern Israel on October 7, triggering war in Gaza.

The cross-border hostilities have killed at least 349 people in Lebanon, mostly Hezbollah fighters, but also at least 68 civilians, according to an AFP tally.

The fighting has displaced tens of thousands of people in southern Lebanon and in northern Israel, where the military says 10 soldiers and eight civilians have been killed.

The UN Truce Supervision Organization was set up after the 1948 war that accompanied Israel's creation to monitor armistice agreements reached with its Arab neighbours.

It also assists other UN peacekeeping operations in the region, including UNIFIL, which was established after Israel's 1978 invasion of south Lebanon and expanded following a 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel.