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Israel 'ignored UN bomb warnings'
by ALJ
Wednesday Jul 26th, 2006 7:23 PM
Israel ignored repeated warnings it was shelling close to United Nations observers in southern Lebanon before an Israeli bomb killed four for them, the Irish foreign ministry has said.

The ministry said on Wednesday a senior Irish army officer had called Israeli military liasion officers at least six times to warn them that Israeli munitions were landing close to UN installations in the region.

The peacekeepers were killed on Tuesday night when an aerial bomb struck a United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) building in Khiam, southern Lebanon, an UNIFIL spokesman said.

"On six separate occasions he [the officer] was in contact with the Israelis to warn them that their bombardment was endangering the lives of UN staff in South Lebanon," a department of foreign affairs spokesman said.

The dead were Canadian, Finnish, Austrian and Chinese nationals.

Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary general, has condemned Israel, saying he was shocked by the "apparently deliberate targeting" of the post, and calling for it to investigate the incident.

Several international governments and organisations also expressed their anger at the bombing.

'Deep regrets'

Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, expressed "deep regrets" earlier on Wednesday over the deaths in a telephone conversation with Annan, his office said, but the Israeli premier said it was "inconceivable" for the UN to think that the incident was deliberate.

Dan Gillerman, the Israeli ambassador to the UN, also said that Annan's comments were "premature and erroneous" for implying that Israel had deliberately targeted the observers.

by UK Independent (reposted)
Wednesday Jul 26th, 2006 7:25 PM

The UN warned Israel with at least 10 separate telephone calls during six hours that repeated aerial and artillery attacks had already landed at or dangerously close to their post in Khiam, south Lebanon, before the bombing that killed four of its observers there on Tuesday.

While expressing their "sorrow" Ehud Olmert, Israel's Prime Minister, and Tzipi Livni, the Foreign Minister, sharply criticised Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, for suggesting the attack on the Khiam post was "apparently deliberate."

But an internal report on the incident says there were more than 20 aerial and artillery attacks on the post on Tuesday, including four artillery rounds that directly hit the UN position an hour before the fatal guided bomb attack that killed the unarmed personnel taking refuge in a bomb shelter. The report says that, each time, the Israeli officer promised that the attacks would stop.

When they failed to do so, the UN Deputy Secretary General Mark Malloch Brown, contacted in New York, also telephoned the Israeli officers to urge a halt to the attacks. Lt-Col John Molloy, the Irish chief liaison officer between UN forces in south Lebanon and the Israelis, warned Israel six times that air strikes threatened the lives of the UN observers before the direct hit.

Ireland's Foreign Ministry said yesterday: "He warned: 'You have to address this problem or lives may be lost'." Dermot Ahern, Ireland's Foreign Minister, summoned Israel's ambassador to his office in protest and declared "Evidence we have would suggest this was either an incredible accident or else was in some way directly targeted."

Mr Annan's statement says that General Alain Pelligrini, the UN force commander in south Lebanon, had been in "repeated contact with Israeli officers ... stressing the need to protect that particular UN position" .

by UN News (reposted)
Wednesday Jul 26th, 2006 7:46 PM
Following yesterday's killings of three United Nations peacekeepers - and possibly a fourth - during an air attack in south Lebanon, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today accepted Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's expression of "deep sorrow" and suggested a joint investigation into the incident.

Speaking to journalists in Rome, where he is meeting with world leaders on the crisis, Mr. Annan said that Mr. Olmert believes that the bombing was a mistake. The Secretary-General emphasized that in his own statement he had used the word "apparent" in relation to whether Israeli forces deliberately targeted the attack on the Khiyam base of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

"But you need to look at the events of yesterday," he urged. "The shelling of the UN position, which is long-established and clearly marked, started in the morning and went on till after 7:00 p.m., when we lost contact."

"You can imagine the anguish of the soldiers and the men and women - unarmed military observers - who were down there in the service of peace," he said, stressing that the peacekeepers were in frequent touch with the Israeli army, pleading with them to avoid striking their location.

However, Mr. Annan added, "we await the investigations."

Meanwhile, the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jane Holl Lute, also welcomed Israel's call for an investigation, transmitting the Organization's preference for a joint probe, as she briefed the Security Council today on the fatal incident.

UNIFIL reported that 21 strikes were made within 300 meters of the patrol base yesterday, with the mission protesting each one to the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). Ms. Holl Lute added that she herself, as well as Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown, made several calls to Israel's UN embassy to reiterate those protests.

After UNIFIL headquarters lost contact with the base, it coordinated safe passage for two armoured personnel carriers, which reached it at 9:30 p.m. and discovered the shelter collapsed among other major damage, she said. Three observers were found killed and a fourth is feared dead.

Despite repeated requests to the IDF for abatement, firing was maintained during the rescue operation, she added, and continued to strike near UNIFIL positions as she spoke.

She emphasized that UNIFIL has also come under direct attacks by small arms fire from Hezbollah forcing the mission to abort the escort of Lebanese civilians to safe areas and movement of troops on other humanitarian missions.

Since the 12 July outbreak of hostilities in Lebanon, UNIFIL reports that a civilian international staff member and his wife have been killed and five soldiers and a military observer have been wounded, in addition to yesterday's deaths.

Under these circumstances, Ms. Holl Lute said the mission might need to consolidate its observers to minimize further risk to its personnel.

The UN staff union's committee on security called on Mr. Annan to suspend UNIFIL's operations, pull back its personnel from hazardous positions until the situation improves, and conduct a full investigation of the fatal bombing.

"This incident once again serves as a tragic reminder of the innumerable risks undertaken daily by United Nations personnel across the globe," the committee said, strongly protesting the attacks.