Despite 6 warnings Israel bombed and killed 4 UN observers

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006


An Israeli bombardment killed four United Nations Observers, despite multiple warnings by UN peacekeeper. The peacekeepers at the post said the area within a kilometer of the post was hit with precision munitions, including 17 bombs and 12 artillery shells, four of which directly hit the UN observation post. The fatal strike with a "precision-guided weapon" according to UN military personnel hit the post at about 7.20pm. The victims were Austrian, Canadian, Chinese and Finnish UN-observers.

The Irish foreign ministry said that Israel ignored repeated warnings from Lieutenant-Colonel John Molloy, a key UN liaising officer, that its bombs were falling close to United Nations observers in southern Lebanon. The warnings came allegedly before an Israeli bomb killed four of the U.N. observers. "On six separate occasions he [Lieutenant-Colonel John Molloy] was in contact with the Israelis to warn them that their bombardment was endangering the lives of UN staff in South Lebanon". "He warned: 'You have to address this problem or lives may be lost'," an Irish foreign affairs spokesman said.

Suzanne Coogan, a spokeswoman for the Irish Defence Minister Willie O'Dea said Molloy "warned the Israelis that they were shelling in very close proximity to the post, and his warnings were very specific, explicit, detailed and stark." She concluded, "Obviously those warnings went unheeded."

Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern said "Evidence that we have would suggest that this was either an incredible accident or else was in some way directly targeted".

In 1996 over 100 civilians were killed by the Israeli bombing of a UN compound in Lebanon in an incident known as the Qana shelling.

The United Nations

Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, said "I am shocked and deeply distressed by the apparently deliberate targeting by Israeli Defense Forces of a United Nations observer post in southern Lebanon that has killed two United Nations military observers, with two more feared dead."

Kofi Annan also said "This coordinated artillery and aerial attack on a long established and clearly marked U.N. post at Khiyam occurred despite personal assurances given to me by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that U.N. positions would be spared Israeli fire."

According to an UNIFIL press release there were 14 prior incidents of firing close to this position by aerial bombs and artillery shells before the fatal hit occurred. Also, 9 UNIFIL bases were bombed earlier during this war but with no apparent casualties. It was also reported Hezbollah fired "from the vicinity" of United Nations positions in Alma ash Shab, Tibnin, Brashit, At Tiri.

Israeli representatives

  • Prime Minister
Israel's prime minister, Ehud Olmert, issued a statement. "It's inconceivable for the UN to define an error as an 'apparently deliberate' action." He expressed his deep sorrow earlier on Wednesday over the deaths.
  • Foreign Ministry spokesman
"Israel sincerely regrets the tragic deaths of the UN personnel in south Lebanon," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev.
  • Israeli Ambassadors
Dan Ayalon, the Israeli Ambassador to the US, demanded that Annan apologize for the remarks, which he called "baseless." The Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Dan Gillerman, expressed his "deep regret" for the deaths, and denied that the incident was intentional. He said that he was "shocked and deeply distressed by the hasty statement of the Secretary-General, insinuating that Israel has deliberately targeted the UN post," calling the comments "premature and erroneous."
Gillerman said "Israel is carrying out a thorough inquiry into this tragic incident and will inform the UN of its results as soon as possible."
  • Israel Defense Forces (IDF)
In a statement issued by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), "Following an initial inquiry, it appears that during the operation a UN post was unintentionally hit . . . The IDF is launching a full investigation in close coordination with the UN."

China

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said "China urges the sides concerned, especially Israel, to take tangible measures to ensure the security of UN peacekeepers" .

Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Zhai Jun told Israeli Ambassador Yehoyada Haim "China strongly condemns the activity to raid the UN peacekeeping post and urges Israel to carry out a thorough investigation and apologize to China and the victim's families, and coordinate with China to deal with the aftermath".

The Chinese victim, named Du Zhaoyu, was a Lieutenant Colonel of the Chinese People's Liberation Army. He has been in Lebanon as a UN observer since January.

Finland

Finnish President Tarja Halonen wanted a full investigation of the attack and also said there was no justification for an attack on the U.N. post.

Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja said "It is not the first time that they (U.N. peace keepers) have been attacked, but it is the first time they have been killed." Mr Tuomioja continued "These so called precision attacks seem to be hitting everyone except Hezbollah, there have been hundreds of civilians, international workers and others killed already and it does not seem that by these means a military solution could be achieved."

The Finnish victim was Lieutenant-Commander Jarno Mäkinen from Kaarina. He was 29 years old and joined United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO) in November 2005. Before that training officer and unit commander in the Uusimaa Brigade.

Canada

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Israel's deadly attack on a UN observation post in Lebanon was a "terrible tragedy". He doubts that the bombing was deliberate. "I certainly doubt that to be the case, given that the government of Israel has been co-operating with us in our evacuation efforts" "We want to find out why this United Nations post was attacked and also why it remained manned during what is now, more or less, a war during obvious danger to these individuals."

Mr Harper said he was waiting for a call from Olmert. "I expect that he will be expressing his deep regret. But also I'll be asking for his full co-operation in getting to the bottom of this." He also said he would follow the results of the UN and Israeli investigation rather than launching his own.

The Canadian victim is Major Paeta Hess-von Kruedener, a member of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. He had completed nine months of his one-year assignment with the UN in Lebanon.

On July 18, Major Paeta Hess-von Kruedener provided CTV.ca with an update of his mission via e-mail. He said that there had been numerous occasions when his post had come under fire. "What I can tell you is this: we have on a daily basis had numerous occasions where our position has come under direct or indirect fire from both artillery and aerial bombing,"

"The closest artillery has landed within two meters of our position and the closest 1000 lb aerial bomb has landed 100 meters from our patrol base." Retired Canadian Major General Lewis Mackenzie was interviewed on CBC radio, and told of an e-mail letter from Kruedener. "He was telling us that Hezbollah soldiers were all over his position and the IDF were targeting them. Since Hezbollah don't have representation in the UN, they use the UN as shields knowing that they can't be punished for it."

Austria

A statement from Austria foreign ministry issued by foreign minister Ursula Plassnik said "Such an attack on unarmed UN observers is entirely unacceptable and can in no way be justified" Ursula Plassnik expressed Austria's indignation over the attack and demanded an immediate and thorough investigation into the incident.

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