NEWS

Last Group Arrives Home

It was sheer joy at Nadi International Airport as the final batch of Fijian troops arrived home yesterday from a peacekeeping mission with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon
27 Dec 2018 10:00
Last Group Arrives Home
An Emotional Frances Tabisa, 9, tearfully reunites with her mother, Lance Corporal Arieta Tabisa, at the Nadi International Airport on December 26, 2018. Lance Corporal Tabisa returned yesterday from serving with the United Nations Interim Force (UNIFIL) in Lebanon. Photo: Nicolette Chambers

It was sheer joy at Nadi International Airport as the final batch of Fijian troops arrived home yesterday from a peacekeeping mission with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

There were tears of joy and excitement as soldiers reunited with their families.

For Lance Corporal Arieta Tabisa of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) coming home to her daughter Frances meant more than the embrace they shared yesterday.

She was one of 136 soldiers who returned after a 14-month stint in Lebanon.

She is also one of the last lot of Fijian troops to serve at UNIFIL following the formal closure of the Fijian Battalion peacekeeping mission in Southern Lebanon by Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama earlier this month.

Lance Corporal Tabisa said: “I am very excited to be back with my daughter I was so excited to see her.

“I had been away for 14 months in Lebanon and I am so happy to arrive safely back home.

“I know I missed a lot on my daughter, but I will make up for it.”

Major Semi Baravilala, who also met with his family, said: “I am proud of the families who made their sacrifice.

“While we are committed with our duties they are the ones sacrificing with patience and that’s one thing I am proud of.

“We were overwhelmed with the experience and the task that was given to us. We learned a lot and we are happy to be home alive.

“In Lebanon, it was more like going back memory lane, remembering the old stories, especially for us first timers.

“When we were there it reminded us of the first peacekeeping mission by the RFMF which was in Lebanon and it was a great experience.”

With this Lebanon tour being the last for Fijian soldiers he said: “We were saddened to hear that we were the last lot to Lebanon, but we feel proud that we were able to complete all the tasks that were given to us and we completed it with a good re- sult”.

About the mission

Fijian troops first started their peacekeeping mission there in 1978.

The UN mandate ended shortly after the Israeli Defence Force (IDF), launched a retaliatory attack, dubbed Operation Grapes of Wrath, in UNIFIL’s area of operation in 1996.

It was in response to artillery rounds fired by armed elements towards Israel from Qana.

More than 500 plus people were dead and five Fijian peacekeepers were among the injured. Miraculously, no Fijian was killed.

More than 34 Fijians died while serving with UNIFIL.

The UN mandate was renewed in 2015 and Fijian peacekeepers returned to Southern Lebanon.

It is understood that some re- turning peacekeepers will be deployed to take up other responsibilities.

Edited by Ranoba Baoa

 nicolette.chambers@fijisun.com.fj

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