A history of Irish peacekeeping in Lebanon



Ladies and Gents
Given the recent turn of events in the middle east and the talk of E.U. led peacekeeping forces it seems only right that we should take a look back at the history and grass roots of the present conflict. So on the Wednesday of each week I will throw up a post concerning an event or series of events from the history of Irish battalion in the "Leb". However to understand the conflict we must first understand some of the background.
It began when the Jordanians ejected the PLO (Palestinian liberation organisation) who set up shop in Lebanon. The PLO attacked Israeli targets from across the border bringing Israeli retaliation against Lebanon. However when PLO influence increased in the south of the country civil war erupted between various factions (Christian, Muslim, Druze and the new guests the PLO). The result was a split within the army which in relation to the civil conflict fractured along religiious boundries. Worried about the possible implications of the quickly deterioating situation the Arab league deployed a 31'000 strong Arab deterrent force which took control of Lebanon as far south as the Litani river. South of this line was "Fatah" land (PLO controled).
Up to this point the Israeli's had not been involved in any major way but this changed on March 11th when the PLO attacked from the sea killing 36 civilians. As a result the IDF launched operation Litani to secure land up as far as th Litani river and remove from Israel's border the multiple PLO camps and bases on Israels northren border. In response to this the U.N. security council passed resolution's 425 and 426 which called for the withdrawal of all Israeli forces from Lebanon and the establishment of UNIFIL (united nations interim force in Lebanon). Ireland agreed to send a battalion for the new force which arrived in full by June 1978. Like most U.N. missions it was intended to be a short mission. Nothing was further from the truth and wasn't helped by the fact that the ADF (only the Syrians remained) did not leave Lebanon and in fact became an ocupation force assisted by the PLO.
To make matters worse the IDF failed to withdraw all the way out of Lebanon and remained in the south along with their proxies the SLA (south Lebanese army) or DFF (De Facto Forces), which was a mainly Christian militia. As a result a stalemate arose which led to regular confrontations between the IDF/DFF and UNIFIL.
Here everybody we have the history behind the first war in Lebanon and a bit of background info. please chew over this and I'l post the first edition of "A history of Irish peacekeeping in Lebanon" tomorrow followed by a new one each week in chronological order. This weeks one will be "the battle of At-Tiri". I would ask that you good people please refrain from the temtation to post anything ahead of the point at which it stands (please dont go and post the battle of At-Tiri). In essence please stick to the material laid out each week and previous to it.

Ok this info has been derived from a presentation by some students on a senior NCO's course. The info was provided by Groundhog on IMO board. I would like to have put in more than just what I found here to personalise it a bit more but the simple truth is I can find very little credible info on it.

10 April 1980

0300Z Situation at At-Tiri very quiet.

0412Z IDF vehicles and troops begin withdrawal towards Saff Al Hawa and beyond. This continued throughout the day. IDF seems to be distancing itself from the DFF.

1008Z Maj Haddad entered At Tiri village and departed at 1039Z.

More intimidation of UNIFIL and local villagers.

1330Z Maj Haddad and 20 DFF arrived at 615-A and were refused entry to At Tiri village. A confrontation was developing at Post 615-A and the situation was very tense.. Before leaving he stated his tank would come and destroy all UNIFIL positions.

1403Z DFF moved two tanks to hill 1000m south of and overlooking At Tiri.

1607Z DFF used loudspeakers in the village mosque to incite villagers to "rise up against UNIFIL". The villagers did not respond.

1744Z all roads at Bayt Yahoun closed to UNIFIL traffic.

1818Z DFF attempt to set fire to Irishbatt APCs at 615-D by pouring petrol over them. DFF opened small arms fire. Four rds returned by Irishbatt personnel and three flares fired at 1827Z.

1908Z eight M 113s with DFF and IDF personnel observed moving east of Kunin.

2045Z DO UNIFIL Ops for info Irishbatt from IDF LO "DFF did not fire on Irish soldiers tonight. It may have been PLO in area."

11 April 1980

No firing on UNIFIL positions overnight.

0811Z DFF tanks south of At Tiri opened fire with HMGs on UNIFIL positions in village. Fire returned. All firing ceased at 0815Z.

0835Z DFF at Outhouse opened up with HMG fire on OC Irishbatt and VIP party moving from Hill 880 to At Tiri. Cherokee (a landrover)abandoned between 615C and 615A. UNIFIL in At Tiri returned fire and fire fight develops.

0839Z firing ceased and convoy continued , raeching village without casualties.

0936Z Radio contact lost with three Enclave positions. DFF small arms fire reported at fourth post in Mhaibeb when post was surrounded by DFF.

0954 Irish troops at Mhaibeb taken prisoner by DFF and later released.

1331Z Maj Hadda arrived at At Tiri. He was refused entry and departed without confrontation.

1526Z A DFF Super Sherman moved from the Cuckoo's Nest at Rshaf and joined the two tanks in position south of At-Tiri.

1600Z to 1800Z general area very quiet. No activity. Radio contact established with 625 Mhaibeb.

Sporadic small arms fire from DF positions at At Tiri to unknown targets. UNIFIL troops did not return fire.

2 APRIL 1980
The night was quiet. No change in dispositions.

0645Z, At Tiri was quiet. But the Muktar was intimidated by DFF in village.

0817Z, Ironside- Sitrep re At Tiri. Situation is quiet at present. DFF informed IRISHBATT that they would be relieved by day and asked IRISHBATT NOT to fire. DFF informed UNIFIL troops were well disciplined, and would only fire if fired upon.

1145Z, four DFF personnel took up firing positions in village. DFF vehicles
came from South.

1231Z, DFF were observed forcing a party of civilian men, women and children, approx 80, along the Kunin road towards At Tiri. They had been dismounted from trucks about 1000m East of 6-15A. The party arrived at the OUTHOUSE at 1253Z, and were joined there by men in civilian clothing carrying petrol cans and tyres.

1245Z, Abu Askander arrived at Bayt Yahun and informed the Post
Comd that he had five IRISHBATT personnel as hostages from Enclave post
6-25. In the event of the DFF militiamen, any women or civilians in the At Tiri
area being injured he would take appropriate revenge against these prisoners, 'one for one' He also state that the shelling of Tibnin and Bra**** was a warning only and that these villages would be fired on for effect if any DFF were injured in the At Tiri area

1249Z, the party of men, women and children left the Outhouse and
attempted to infiltrate At Tiri through 6-15A. This attempt was foiled by UNIFIL
troops. The party remained in the vicinity of 6-15A attempting to create a

1253Z, DFF near 6-15B fired with small arms on 6-15D. UNIFIL troops
at 6-15D returned fire. Shooting at this location ceases at 1304Z.

1315Z, another 50 civilians, mostly youths, arrived by civilian trucks at the
Outhouse. They joined with the parry creating a disturbance at 6-15A and began
throwing stones, bricks and bottles at UNIFIL position at 6-15A. They then poured
petrol on tyres and setting them alight pushed them down the slopes towards the
UNIFIL positions attempting to set these positions and the vehicles alight, this attempt was foiled. The civilian's then attempted to infiltrate through 6-15A en-masse. This attempt was repulsed after major physical confrontation and the use of tear gas. The DFF in positions at 6-15 opened up with small arms fire on 6-15. DFF near positions 6-15A took up firing positions and used the children as a shield
commenced firing on Post 6-15 UNIFIL troops at 6-15 returned controlled fire. The
party of civilians still near 6-15A on hearing the outbreak of fire quickly withdrew
and departed on the advice of DFF after talks with UNIFIL troops at 6-15A.

At 1320Z, DFF intensified fire on 6-15 and opened fire on 6-15A and 6-15D.
All UNIFIL personnel took cover in their prepared positions: At this stage a Fijian
soldier Pte S Sonanavalu received a head wound from a DFF sniper. He was
immediately MEDEVACED under fire and removed to post 611 where he later died. Fire was retured by UNIFIL troops.

1324Z, DFF tank's South of village fired three rounds tank fire into At Tiri

1326Z, one TOW Missile was fired from HILL 880 by Dutch UNIFIL troops as a warning to DFF tanks.

1332Z, SITREP at At Tiri. Very tense.

1337Z. 6-15 suffered a direct hit by DFF tank fire. No casualties but
considerable damage caused to ground floor walls of house- DFF escalated small arms and HMG fire on 6-15, 6-15A and 6-15D. Fire was returned by UNIFIL troops from all positions.

1340Z. UNIFIL troops in At Tiri launched an attack on DFF positions in
At Tiri DFF Half Track at avenue of 6-15 was destroyed by an AML 90 and DFF
personnel were driven out of the village after heavy fire fight during which one DFF
was killed, a number injured and three taken prisoner. DFF personnel left the
Outhouse and some injured taken in Red Cross Ambulance. One DFF militiaman
suspected killed in the Outhouse area.

1359Z, SUNRAY met Abu Askander at 6-15A. Dead militiaman handed
over to DFF but the three prisoners retained in UNIFIL custody, these prisoners were kept under guard at 6-15. Less than 45 minutes after the attack had begun UNIFIL had complete control of AT TIRI village UNIFIL troops re-grouped and prepared for expected DFF retaliation.

1511Z, Outhouse taken and permission granted to occupy HILL 50m East of 6-15A.

1620Z, message received from UNIFIL Ops from Maj Haddad: "Because
UNIFIL soldiers opened fire on the children and women at At Tiri and your soldiers
barbaric behaviour, I want to inform you that from this day on, I am not
responsible for the safety of any of the UNIFIL soldiers nor for the acts or reprisals
that will be carried out against you".

Between 1543Z and 1728Z DFF fired seven rounds tank fire at Post 6-15A,
and sporadic mortar fire on 6-15, 6-15A, 6-15D and on UNIFIL Positions at At Tiri village. UNIFIL troops deployed on HILL 50m East of 6-15A and got permission to re-deploy immediately. Three rounds phosphorus also fired at 6-15A.

2112Z, post 6-24 (ENCLAVE POST) was surrounded by DFF and the
four UNIFIL troops taken by DFF. They were

Sgt 0' Callaghan CTD (S)
Pte 0' Neill 12 Bn Clonmel
Pte Healy 12 Bn Clonmel
Pte 0' Donnell 12 Bn Limerick

From UNIFIL Ops : " It has been agreed that the prisoners held by IRISHBATT will be exchanged for the four IRISHBATT pers taken from 6-24, in Blida tonight by DFF.

2150Z, From UNIFIL Ops: "Exchange of prisoners has been arranged for 0800Z 13 April at 6-15A. It will be supervised by OGL".

1. Withdraw Force Reserve from AT TIRI at first light on 13 April.
2. Exchange of prisoners to take place at 6-15A at 0600 hrs LT.
3. Destroyed Half Track to be handed over to DFF at 6-15A on 13 April.

And so concludes the battle of At-Tiri, I'll post some info on the aftermath of the battle tomorrow but in the mean time enjoy the presently available info. It should by the way also be noted that At-Tiri was not just any old village. It stood in a strategic position which allowed access to hill 880. From this position the surrounding area including the villages of Tibnine, Haddathah and Haris could be controlled. For their actions during the battle 4 members of the Irish defence forces received the MMG (military medal for gallantry).

Opinion and supposition:
One can clearly derive from this event the kind of people (both civilian and militia) that the DFF were by majority. Their willingness to engage the U.N. positions even to the point of sending unarmed people in to do their dirty work in the hope that the U.N. would back down and go away. When this did not happen they began an increasingly aggressive campaign using both unarmed people and militia to try and rest control of the village from the U.N. which ultimately failed. This I believe shows the calibre of the U.N. troops especially those of Irish batt in a very favourable light. Also I believe it is a permanent dent in Israel's credibility that they would support such an organisation as the DFF.
The reason why Israel would support them was simply that the DFF opposed the PLO and this Israel may have believed would be the best way to keep terrorism off Israel's northern border in the long run (but as we know now from recent event's this has not been the case). However the end does not always justify the means and in this case the end remained unachieved and the means unjustifiable given that the DFF were as much terrorists as the PLO or Hezbollah.
I would like all to take note of the fact that my opinion and supposition has been labelled exactly that and I would ask that all observe common sense and do not go dressing up such as fact. Also for those who may think that I have been one sided in my relating of event's and have failed to show any of the problems caused by the other side in the conflict next weeks edition will be "the kidnapping of Private Kevin Joyce".
That will take us into 1981 and will show just how much more alike (than they were ever prepared to admit) the local militias of all sides were.

Six days after the end of hostilities in At-Tiri,three Irishbatt soldiers were detailed to drive vehicles in a re-supply convoy to the a UN position called OP Ras. Accompanying them were two unarmed UN observers,an American Major named Harry Kline and a French Captain,Patrick Vincent,an American reporter,Steve Hindy and a Lebanese photographer named Zavam Vartan.The plan was for the convoy to be met at the first SLA checkpoint outside the UN area at the village of Bayt Yahoun.There they were to be met by Abu Askander,the same man who had threatened the lives of Irish prisoners a week before.When they go to the checkpoint however there was no sign of the escort so the convoy proceeded to the next checkpoint at Saff Al Howa.At this checkpoint,normally heavily manned they found just one SLA man who waved the convoy through.However as they approached the village of Ras the convoy was stopped by a large contingent of SLA soldiers,commanded by a man named Mohammed Bazi.Bazi’s brother had been killed in At-Tiri the previous week.
The UN troops,outnumbered and out gunned were disarmed and driven to a derelict school house in Ras where they were all placed in the school toilets.Bazi demanded to know who were the Irish,a pointless question as all UN troops wear a national badge on
the sleeve of their uniforms.Bazi would have been familiar with the Irish flash which was a shamrock on a red background.The three Irishmen,Ptes John o’Mahoney,Tom Barrett and Derek Smallhorne were ordered down to the basement.On the stairs Bazi fired one of the captured weapons,a Gustaf Sub-machine gun at o’Mahoney,hitting him in the stomach.As he lay on the ground Bazi fired again and wounded him in the ankle.
O’Mahoney crawled down into the basement where another man whom he believed was an IDF officer pointed a pistol at his head.However he didn’t fire.Instead he went and fetched the American Major who carried him upstairs and into a car which brought him to the Irish post at Bayt Yahoun.From there he was transferred to UNIFIL HQ where he underwent surgery for his wounds.John o’Mahoney survived his brush with death and was medically discharged from the army three years later.
His two comrades had attempted to escape from the building when Bazi shot him but were recaptured and forced into a Peugeot car which was driven away to a place near Saff Al Howa.In an isolated spot they were both shot in the head and their bodies left until that evening when OGL officers were brought to the location.
The man suspected of their murder was never captured and today lives in the United States.
Today the SLA and the DFF are history.They disappeared when the Israelis withdrew from Lebanon last year after 22 years of conflict.Irishbatt held their position in At-Tiri all through that period.Ptes Griffin and Sonanavalu were not the last to die there.
And that my friends concludes the battle of At-Tiri, build up, event and aftermath. If anyone has anything to add (constructive please) then please do so.
First up

As for "the battle of At-Tiri" The information is taken directly from a presentation by Students oin an Irish army nco's course who used the official report by those of Irishbatt who were there. In effect you are looking at the guts of an Irishbatt report from the time.
The material

Thread was originally written sometime ago at http://www.militaryphotos.net/forums/showthread.php?t=88240.
The address's for background info on the Lebanese conflict are bookmarked on a different computer and as they are not commited to memory I cannot now post them, they will be posted later today. Some did display elements of bias in them however these elements were not put in the finished post and most info was cross referenced with a number of sites. UNIFILS web page was anmong those utilised. address's will follow later.
As for th battle of At-Tiri that is not freely available on the web as said before it came from a report by Irishbatt on the incident. The individual who helped me by getting the info can be found on irishmilitaryonline.com . all you need do is run a search in it on At-Tiri and it should come up.
Thank you, much appreciated.

I will warn you the UN is not seen as any type of reliable/trustworthy/competent or useful organization around these parts ;)

While I must say they have displayed frightful lack of competence in the past they have done at least some good. It was U.N. restrictions that left us with some realy shity ROE in Leb. I was not myself there but I know the score.
While I must say they have displayed frightful lack of competence in the past they have done at least some good.


OK, you're Irish so I know your probably drunk ;) but dude!

That is a wild fucking statement!

You have to back that one up!!!
The kidnaping of pte Kevin Joyce

There have been many soldiers killed while on U.N. service but only one has completely vanished. His name is private Kevin Joyce and on April 27th 1981 he was kidnapped from the post that he and fellow irishbatt soldier private Hugh Doherty were manning. Pte Joyce remains the U.N.'s only MIA as his remains have never been recovered despite a search spanning 20 years.
The 19 year old private from Inisheer was kidnapped from the OP he was manning in south Lebanon a year before the Israeli's launched yet another invasion.
It would appear that the two men were taken by surprise given the fact that pte Doherty who had just turned 20 was shot 3 times in the back and Joyce taken. However it will probably never be known exactly what transpired on that day. Then according to U.N. intelligence reports he was moved to a refugee camp in Tyre. A few weeks later however there was a gun battle between Fijian peacekeepers and Palestinian militia men in south Lebanon and it is believed that he was at this point murdered as some sort of retaliation for the deaths of several Palestinian militia in the incident with the Fijians.

Over the course of the next year investigations by Irish U.N. officers determined that Abu Amin Dayk, a Lebanese local of slight build in his mid thirties working for a Palestinian faction had led the gang that had murdered Doherty and kidnapped Joyce. An Irish officer investigating the incident met with Dayk in 1984. The officer recalled "I remember during that meeting he appeared to be very nervous. You could tell that he was aware that his enemies were closing in. It was weird being in the same room as the man we suspected had been behind the Dyar Ntar attack. He was very uneasy during the meeting. He kept looking out the window. When people like Dayk sought a meeting with Unifil you could be sure their power was waning".

However the Irish did not get a chance to meet Dayk again. In May 1984 he was arrested by the local Amal resistance and executed for crimes against the Lebanese people. He was given a public execution and was hung near Marrakeh. It was not till 2001 that someone finally admitted to having knowledge about the missing soldier. Those suspected of being responsible for the crime have never admitted to it. And so despite some information now 25 years after it happened there are still unanswered questions about the murder of Doherty and kidnapping of Joyce. Also over the course of the investigations a number of bogus claims were made the most outrageous maintaining that he had in fact joined the Palestinian resistance and was fighting with the guerrillas.
The search came to an unfortunate and inconclusive end in November 2001 when the majority of the Irishbatt left Lebanon leaving only a small number of officers and their MIA comrade behind them. The truth about what happened exactly will now probably never be known but we will never forget the 46 Irishmen who gave their lives in the cause of peace in Lebanon nor the fact that one of them has still not come home.
Next post will contain the role of Honour for Irish in Lebanon.
Murder of 3 soldiers in Lebanon

On the 27th of October 1982 3 Irish soldiers were murdered in Lebanon. But not as some might think by DFF or Amal or Hezbollah and not the Israeli's either. These men were killed by a comrade, a fellow irish soldier. pte Mc aleavey was the man responsible for their deaths. pte Peter Burke, cpl Gregory Marrow and pte Thomas Murphy were murdered in cold blood by a fellow soldier for no other reason other than a mere insult.
What follows is an account taken from the book "irishbatt" and initially posted on IMO by Haribo.
It appears that pte Mc aleavey had quite a few hang ups ,one of them being a hatred towards jews and when the roadcheck/outpost that he and his 4 other comrades were securing , was approched in transport by either 2 Israelis ,or LDF men (lebanese defence force) , he ordered them from the vechile and barated them , calling them all sorts of names while pointing his FN rifle at them witch didint go down at all well with niether the 2 above mentioned or his comrades and his NCO cpl leevy (i think,,, ,,'' who wasent exactley great buddies with Mc aleavey due to some domestic dispute back in ireland involving a femail'') orderd him to '' get his act together'' in no uncertain terms, and this seemed to alinate him further from his angry mates for the rest of the evening until one of the other 3 privates '' (peter burke, thomas murphy, gary morrow) aperentaly called him a '' f-----g waster '' , who shouldent have even being in the lebanon and was only a last minute replacement for another soldier well , that'' as the say, was the straw that broke the camels back as far as he (Mc aleavey) was concerned and he proceeded to run amok with his rifle and shot dead his comrades .He did make up a story about being attacked by some unseen force but of course , you couldent hide somthing like that up and he was in denial for a long time only it was a garda detective who got him to open up with it all in the end .
As an American that can trace all of his ancestry back to Ireland, I appreciate the insight into the Irish role in Lebanon. It's a history I really haven't looked at until now.

My dad used to travel to the Middle East on a regular basis throughout the 70s and 80s. Beirut would usually be on his itinerary to meet with potential customers, at least prior to 1975. He really liked Lebanon, said Beirut lived up to its billing as the Paris of the Middle East.

As an American that can trace all of his ancestry back to Ireland, I appreciate the insight into the Irish role in Lebanon. It's a history I really haven't looked at until now.
No problem, when I get off my lazy ass I'l be posting the next one on the killing of Lt Aongus Murphy. hopefully I will have written it by Friday.