From Monday through Wednesday, members of the National Defence Committee of the Riigikogu visited soldiers serving on the UNIFIL peacekeeping mission in Southern Lebanon in order to familiarize themselves with the tasks and service of Estonian peacekeepers serving there.
"Such visits are necessary first and foremost for increasing situational awareness and the collecting of first-hand information," committee chairman Hannes Hanso said according to a military press release. "For example, we received new information not only about what is going on in Southern Lebanon but also the most important developments of the neighboring region. Actually being in the region and speaking to people youself, you understand what the situation here is really like and how important of a tasks our troops are fulfilling here."
During the three day visit, the visiting delegation, which consisted of MPs Hanso, Johannes Kert, Oudekki Loone and Madis Milling, met with UNIFIL commander Maj. Gen. Michael Beary (Ireland) as well as Lt. Col. Stephen Howard (Ireland), chief of the Irish-Finnish battalion in which the Estonian soldiers are serving.
The MPs also observed a patrol of ESTPLA-22, the infantry platoon currently serving on the UNIFIL mission, and visited UN bases 2-45 and 6-50. While at the latter base, located within close proximity to the Blue Line separating Lebanon from Israel, the visiting delegation also met with nearly all of the Estonian soldiers currently serving in Lebanon, together with whom they discussed the primary directions of Estonia's national defense in the near future.
ESTPLA-22, which arrived in the country at the end of November last year, is based at UN Position 2-45 in At Tiri, Southern Lebanon. Among the duties of the Estonian peacekeepers are day- and nighttime patrols along the Blue Line separating Lebanon from Israel.
UN units, including the Estonian platoon, likewise conduct patrols — both motorized and by foot — both by day and at night in their areas of responsibility, man lookout points and fulfill other peacekeeping duties.
Together with staff officers, a total of nearly 40 members of the Estonian Defence Forces are currently serving in Lebanon, of which the majority are made up of a platoon-sized unit consisting primarily of members of the Staff and Support Company of the professional Scouts Battalion.
The Estonian platoon is serving as a part of the Irish-Finnish Battalion, which is the only international battalion serving on the UNIFIL peacekeeping mission. A total of 40 countries contribute to UNIFIL; ESTPLA-22 is the fifth Estonian unit to serve in Lebanon.
Editor: Editor: Aili Vahtla