Annan accuses Israel over attack on UN post

Published: 26 July 2006

The UN secretary general Kofi Annan says an Israeli
attack on a UN observation post was "apparently
deliberate". Four unarmed military observers were
killed in the air strike in southern Lebanon. 

The Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, spoke by
phone to Mr Annan. Mr Olmert expressed his "deep
regret" and said the peacekeepers were killed
mistakenly. He expressed dismay over Mr Annan's
accusation and promised a thorough investigation ,
saying the results would be presented to Mr Annan. 

Mr Annan later called for participants at a Mideast
conference to push for an immediate ceasefire to end
fighting between Israel and Hizbollah guerrillas. 

Hizbollah must stop its "deliberate targeting of
Israeli population centers". And Israel must put an
end to all bombing, ground operations and blockades of
Lebanese ports. 

In a statement in Rome, Mr Annan said: "A key
stipulation for such a halt in fighting would be that
the parties must not, I repeat, must not take
advantage of such a pause to conduct offense
operations, redeploy or resupply." And he added that
an international force will be vital to keeping peace.

Since fighting between Israel and Hezbollah militants
began two weeks ago, there had been several dozen
incidents of firing close to UN peacekeepers and
observers, including direct hits on nine positions,
some of them repeatedly, a UN official said. 

As a result of these attacks, 12 UN personnel have
been killed or injured, the official said. 

Last night's bomb made a direct hit on the building
and shelter of the observer post in the town of Khiam,
near the eastern end of the border with Israel, said
Milos Struger, spokesman for the UN peacekeeping force
in Lebanon known as Unifil. 

Four unarmed military observers were in a bunker and
the bunker collapsed as a result of the bombing, the
UN official said. 

Rescue workers were trying to clear the rubble, but
Israeli firing " continued even during the rescue
operation", Struger said. 

Annan said two UN military observers were killed with
two more feared dead. Later, the UN official confirmed
that a third body was recovered from the rubble. 

The victims included observers from Austria, Canada,
China and Finland, UN and Lebanese military officials

Chinese foreign minister Li Zhaoxing said he was
saddened by the news and that it showed "we should try
harder to call on the parties to be restrained and to
be calm and restore the peace process of the Middle
East immediately". 

China's official Xinhua News Agency identified the
Chinese victim as Du Zhaoyu. 

It was not immediately known which of the others were
confirmed dead. 

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

Furthermore, he said, General Alain Pelligrini, the UN
force commander in south Lebanon, had been in repeated
contact with Israeli officers throughout yesterday
"stressing the need to protect that particular UN
position from attack". 

But Gillerman said 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 assertions
"premature and erroneous". 

He said Olmert's assurances to the secretary-general
were "a clear indication" of Israel's commitment to
ensure the safety and security of UN personnel. 

As reports of the attack emerged, Annan rushed out of
a hotel in Rome following a dinner with US secretary
of state Condoleezza Rice and Lebanese prime minister
Fuad Saniora. 

"I am shocked and deeply distressed by the apparently
deliberate targeting by Israeli Defence Forces of a UN
observer post in southern Lebanon," Annan said in a
statement later. 

"I call on the government of Israel to conduct a full
investigation into this very disturbing incident and
demand that any further attack on UN positions and
personnel must stop." 

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" . 

The UN Security Council is expected to receive a
briefing on the bombing today. 

Since Israel launched a massive military offensive
against Lebanon and Hezbollah guerillas on July 12, a
Nigerian civilian employee working with Unifil and his
wife had been killed in the crossfire in the southern
port city of Tyre. 

Five Unifil soldiers and one military observer had
also been wounded, Struger said. They included four
Ghanaians injured by artillery fire on Monday and a
peacekeeper shot through the back on July 23. 


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