A hundred and twenty Irish troops serving with United Nations forces in Southern Lebanon have started running out of food after being trapped behind Christian lines for more than four days.
GROUND TO AIR VIEW Israeli aircraft flying overhead
SV & CU Irish patrol in Panhard and APC (2 shots)
SV & CU Patrol moves off (2 shots)
LV Patrol arriving at forward position
SV Sandbagged bunker
GV PULL BACK Christian position seen from bunker
CU INT Irish UN soldier on field telephone
GV PAN Christian-held position
SV Irish headquarters with Landrover outside and observation point on roof
CU Colonel Vincent Savino listening to and replying to question from Tony Hull
HULL: "Colonel, I understand some of your forces have been cut off behind rightist lines. How many men are involved?"
SAVINO: "Well, over a hundred men, about a hundred and twenty men altogether, in eight different positions in the de facto area, and we haven't been able to re-supply them for four days now."
HULL: "And how serious are things at the moment?"
SAVINO: "Well, pretty bad, because one of the OPs in a radio message today they tell us that the food has run out today at lunchtime. So it's never easy. They're also short of heating oil and gasoline. And heating oil is particularly difficult at this time of the year, it's very cold over there. We're a high altitude over here."
REPORTER: TONY HULL
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Background: A hundred and twenty Irish troops serving with United Nations forces in Southern Lebanon have started running out of food after being trapped behind Christian lines for more than four days. Their commander said on Thursday (18 January) that the situation was becoming serious. The troops were patrolling an area controlled by Israeli-backed forces when the militias barred their return to their post.
SYNOPSIS: Israeli air force planes regularly fly over the area adjoining their border, which the Christians have refused to hand over to the U.N.
The Irish troops serving with the U.N. Interim Forces -- UNIFIL -- are stationed in Tibnin, 12 kilometres north of the Israeli border. They make daily patrols to points only six kilometres from the border.
According to their commander, Colonel Vincent Savino, the Christians have made regular attempts to probe for weaknesses int he U.N. lines. He said they had temporarily taken over one U.N. position when Iranian troops vacated it to make way for their Nigerian replacements. The militias, Colonel Savino added, were armed with Israeli-supplied tanks, heavy machine guns and artillery.
Tension has grown in the area with the approach of Friday's (19 January) debate on the renewal of the UNIFIL mandate, which expired on the same day. There were fears that the militancy of the Christians could lead to renewed fighting. Tony Hull of Visnews spoke to Colonel Savino.