PETALING JAYA, 5 NOV – Malaysian peacekeepers in Lebanon will face greater challenges from the spill-over of the on-going Israel-Hamas conflict in the Middle-East.
Defence Minister Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan said that the Malaysian battalion (Malbatt) serving with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil) were, however, reminded to be vigilant and on-guard for any eventualities at all times.
“This time, the assignment is seen as more challenging due to the Israel-Hamas conflict (in Gaza) which has intensified since Oct 7.
“It has increased tension and claimed thousands of lives where it had led to the destruction of property from air-strikes, rocket, artillery and mortar attacks.
“I am afraid that if this conflict prolongs, it will affect the security situation in Lebanon and will also make it difficult for Unifil and the incoming Malbatt 850-11 and the outgoing Malbatt 850-10 contingents,” Mohamad said at the send-off ceremony for the first batch of Unifil Malbatt 850-11 peacekeepers at the Royal Malaysian Air Force base in Subang.
Present were Defence Forces chief General Tan Sri Mohammad Abdul Rahman, Brunei’s acting High Commissioner Mohd Aizul Hakim Suyoi and Defence Ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Isham Ishak.
He, nevertheless, assured the safety of Malaysian peacekeepers as their tour of duty at several camps in Lebanon (which borders Israel in the north) were not directly affected.
“Despite regularly hearing and seeing the explosions from the rockets fired and intercepted, there is no real danger as their camps are far away from the conflict zone (down south in Gaza).
“There are also safety bunkers for our troops in times of need,” he said.
Malbatt 850’s camps in Tibnin and Ma’rakah are situated 10 kilometres from each other and located within the ‘blue line’ which is defined by the Golan Heights.
“Additionally, Malbatt is protected by the multi-national Unifil peacekeepers, and escorts will accompany them on their journey to and from Beirut Airport,” Mohamad said.
The first batch of Malbatt 850-11 that departed Subang were under the command of Colonel Burhan Sagoni, comprising 218 personnel (49 officers and 169 other ranks).
The remaining 636 peacekeepers will be deployed in four stages between Nov 7 and Nov 16, and would carry out operational tasks assigned by UNIFIL.
Malbatt 850-11 also includes three officers and 27 personnel from the Royal Brunei Armed Forces, as well as one civilian financial officer from the Defence Ministry.
They will gradually replace Malbatt 850-10, whose first group is expected home on Nov 3.
Mohamad said that the Malaysian Armed Forces continued involvement in UN peace-keeping missions reflected the international community’s recognition and confidence in their credibility, authority and professionalism.
Thus, he said, Malbatt personnel were constantly reminded to maintain a high quality of discipline to ensure that such recognition continued.
“Our involvement at the international level also proved of Malaysia’s commitment in implementing the responsibility of peace-keeping tasks and providing humanitarian assistance to ensure the aspirations of universal peace is realised.
Meanwhile, Mohamad said that any decision to unilaterally send troops to Palestine required careful assessment from various parties, including the neighbouring countries in the troubled region.
In the meantime, Mohamad said he would bring up issues related to Palestine as a side topic at the Asean defence ministers’ meeting next week to listen to the voices of the countries in the region regarding the conflict.
“We want to hear Asean’s collective voice because we have one belief which is ‘Asean Centrality’ to agree sending troops to Palestine under the UN banner,” he said.
Mohamad said that until now, Malaysia had always been committed to providing support to achieve universal peace under the UN banner and this had been proven through its involvement in 37 missions, either as an observer or peacekeeping force.
Among the missions undertaken were in Congo, Somalia, Namibia, Cambodia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, East Timor and in Lebanon. – airtimes.my
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