UN accuses Israelis of deliberate attack


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

Wed 26 Jul 2006
UN accuses Israelis of deliberate attack

AN ISRAELI air raid in south Lebanon killed four UN military observers 
yesterday, in an attack that Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary-general, 
said was "apparently deliberate".

The four observers were part of the UN peacekeeping mission, UN and Lebanese 
officials said.

Their deaths came as senior Hezbollah figures admitted they had not predicted 
the strength of Israel's response to cross-border raids, but vowed to step up 
their attacks into Israel.

Speaking after yesterday's attack on the UN site, Milos Strugar, a spokesman for
the UNIFIL peacekeeping force, said: "One aerial bomb directly impacted the 
building and shelter in the base of the United Nations Observer Group in Lebanon
in the area of Khiyam."

Mr Strugar said attacks had continued in the area as rescuers attempted to reach
the wounded.

"There were 14 other incidents of firing close to this position in the afternoon
from the Israeli side, and the firing continued during the rescue operation," he

In a statement issued at UN headquarters in New York, Mr Annan said: "I am 
shocked and deeply distressed by the apparently deliberate targeting by Israeli 
defence forces of a UN observer post in southern Lebanon.

"This co-ordinated artillery and aerial attack on a long-established and clearly
marked UN post at Khiyam occurred despite personal assurances given to me by 
prime minister Ehud Olmert that UN positions would be spared Israeli fire," Mr 
Annan added.

UNIFIL was created in 1978 after Israel's first major invasion of southern 
Lebanon and has been there ever since.

An Israeli tank shell hit a UNIFIL position in southern Lebanon on Monday, 
wounding four Ghanaian soldiers.

Shrapnel from tank shells fired from the Israeli side seriously wounded an 
Indian soldier last week, and Hezbollah fire wounded an Italian observer on the 
border on Sunday.

In Jerusalem, an Israeli army spokeswoman said the military was investigating 
the report of yesterday's deaths.

Those killed included observers from Austria, Canada, China and Finland, a 
senior Lebanese military official said.

Reports also emerged from the Israeli army yesterday that it had killed the 
"senior Hezbollah militant", Abu Jafr.

The claims came as Mahmoud Komati, the deputy chief of the Hezbollah politburo, 
suggested the group had miscalculated Israel's response to its raids.

"The truth is - let me say this clearly - we didn't even expect [this] 
response... that [Israel] would exploit this operation for this big war against 
us," said Mr Komati.

But last night Hezbollah's principal leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, vowed his 
fighters would now begin firing rockets deeper into Israel, beyond the northern 
port of Haifa.

And the Shiite cleric claimed Israel's two-week-long offensive was linked to a 
US-Israeli plan for "a new Middle East", a term used repeatedly by the US 
secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, on her visit to the region.

Earlier yesterday, Israel vowed to pursue its war against Hezbollah and 
establish a no-go zone for the guerrillas in southern Lebanon until an 
international force arrives.

A total of 418 people in Lebanon and 42 Israelis have been killed in a conflict 
that erupted after Hezbollah abducted two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border 
raid on 12 July.

Yesterday, the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, warned that the conflict 
could sweep through the Middle East like "a hurricane".

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