Lebanese Stone UN Peacekeepers, Injure 14

Villagers threw stones at U.N. peacekeeping troops
in southern Lebanon Saturday, lightly injuring 14 soldiers, in an
attempt to prevent an investigation near the site of a recent
explosion, a spokeswoman said.

In one instance, a peacekeeping patrol had to fire warning shots
in the air to clear its path, said peacekeeping spokeswoman Yasmina
Bouziane.

Saturday's incident is believed to be the most serious
confrontation between Shiite Muslims sympathetic to the militant
Hezbollah group and the thousands of U.N. peacekeepers deployed in
southern Lebanon after the 2006 war between the guerrillas and
Israel.

The incident came after an explosion Tuesday in a southern
village was blamed on a suspected Hezbollah weapons depot that
apparently accidentally blew up.

Relations between the U.N. force and Hezbollah and its allies
have been largely good, with only very limited incidents in the
last three years. Sunni Islamic militants linked to al-Qaida, which
is hostile to Hezbollah, are suspected of being behind the
deadliest attack on the force: a car bomb that killed six Spanish
peacekeepers in June 2007.

Saturday's clash occurred when U.N. peacekeepers and Lebanese
army troops were less than a mile from the site of Tuesday's
explosion "to verify some elements related to" the accident,
Bouziane told The Associated Press.

About 100 people gathered and attempted to hamper their activity
by throwing stones, and additional troops were deployed as the
crowd grew, said Bouziane.

Tuesday's explosion occurred in an abandoned building in Khirbet
Silim, about 9 miles (15 kilometers) from the Israeli border.
Lebanese officials have said the explosion was caused by a fire in
a Hezbollah weapons storage facility. Hezbollah has remained
silent.

U.N. peacekeepers have said the weapons depot was a "serious
violation" of a U.N. Security Council solution that ended the
34-day war between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006. The U.N.-brokered
truce prohibits Hezbollah from engaging in military activities in
south Lebanon and forbids weapon smuggling to the group. But the
guerrillas are believed to continue to have a clandestine presence
in the area.

After the explosion, Israel accused Iran and Syria of violating
those conditions by sending weapons to Hezbollah.

Hezbollah and Lebanon's government, which has backed the
guerrillas, have in turn accused Israel of violating the resolution
by routinely sending its military aircraft on reconnaissance
missions over the country.

Under the U.N. resolution, a 13,300-member U.N. peacekeeping
force from 28 nations was deployed along Lebanon's border with
Israel to help 15,000 Lebanese government troops extend their
authority into the south for the first time in decades and create a
buffer zone free of Hezbollah fighters.


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