Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Annan: IAF hit 'apparently deliberate' | Jerusalem Post

Jerusalem Post

Annan: IAF hit 'apparently deliberate'

An Israeli bomb destroyed a UN observer post on the border in southern Lebanon, killing two peacekeepers with two others feared dead under the rubble. UN chief Kofi Annan said Israel appeared to have struck the site deliberately.

Israel's UN Ambassador Dan Gillerman expressed his "deep regret" for the deaths and denied Isarel hit the post intentionally.

"I am shocked and deeply distressed by the hasty statement of the secretary-general, insinuating that Israel has deliberately targeted the UN post," he said, calling the assertions "premature and erroneous."

The IDF said in response that it deeply regretted the "tragic death" of the UN personnel and vowed to investigate the incident.

The bomb made a direct hit on the building and shelter of the observer post in the town of Khiyam near the eastern end of the border with Israel, said Milos Struger, spokesman for the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon known as UNIFIL.

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. The victims included observers from Austria, a Canada, China and Finland, UN and Lebanese military officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information to the media. It was not immediately known which were confirmed dead.

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.

Annan said in his statement that the post had been there for a long time and was marked clearly, and was hit despite assurances from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that UN positions would not be attacked.

"I call on the goverment 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," Annan said in the statement.

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."

US Ambassador John Bolton said the Security Council was informed that four officers were killed, but he had no other information.

"We're obviously very sorry about that. We're attempting to get information where we can to confirm the nature of the incident," Bolton said.

Since Israel launched a massive military offensive against Lebanon and Hezbollah guerrillas July 12, an international civilian employee working with UNIFIL and his wife have been killed in the crossfire between Israeli forces and Hezbollah guerrillas in the southern port city of Tyre.

Five UNIFIL soldiers and one military observer have also been wounded, Struger said.

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