Belgian troops bid farewell to south Lebanon
After years of fruitful tenure, the Belgians troops departed for home in December 2014, marking the end of their peacekeeping efforts in south Lebanon.
When the Belgian peacekeeping troops first arrived in south Lebanon shortly after the 2006 war, they were about 370 soldiers, stationed in Tibnin. Their expertise was mine-clearance and they ran a military field hospital from 2006 to 2009 that served the local population.
Nearly 5,500 Belgian soldiers have served in south Lebanon since then. During their mission in the south, the Belgian demining troops cleared 1.77 million square meters of land, and collected and destroyed 15,000 unexploded ordinances (UXOs).
This includes mine clearance along the Blue Line, which is identified as the Line of Withdrawal of Israeli Forces from Lebanon.
The Belgian medical team has treated nearly 9,000 patients at their field hospital. Among their many contributions to the local community, they recently rehabilitated a local hospital, which was handed over to the local community.
The Belgians also contributed to the efforts of UNIFIL's Maritime Task Force (MTF) with the services of their frigate Leopold 1, deployed in 2008 and 2009 to prevent illegal arms traffic into Lebanon.
During a farewell ceremony held at At Tiri, the Belgians were thanked for their lasting contributions to the people of Lebanon and the region. The event was marked by the presence of the Head of Mission and Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Luciano Portolano, Belgian Minister of Defence, Mr. Steven Vandeput, the Belgian ambassador to Lebanon, Mr. Alex Lenaerts, members of the Belgian parliament, local community and LAF leaders along with UNIFIL staff members.
Maj.-Gen. Portolano expressed his high regard for the outstanding contribution of Belgian troops to UNIFIL's mandate, and their exemplary service as peacekeepers. "Through the years, Belubatt has been known as a proactive and cooperative neighbor, developing lasting relationships with all UNIFIL and local authorities", he said.
"I congratulate every single Belgian soldier for your display of peacekeeping spirits and for your commitment in assisting and supporting the government, the armed forces and the people of Lebanon in restoring of peace & stability".
Mr. Vandeput thanked the local authorities for their support to the Belgians. He also paid tribute to the four Belgians who had lost their lives in service and thanked his troops for their service away from home. "It goes without saying that mine clearance is a peaceful mission that especially benefits the local population", he said.
"Belgium's participation in UNIFIL is an illustration of the very positive and practical difference that small countries like ours can make".