WORLD / Middle East

UN expresses shock at Israeli bombing
Updated: 2006-07-28 08:25

UNITED NATIONS - The U.N. Security Council approved a weak statement Thursday expressing shock and distress at Israel's bombing of a U.N. post in Lebanon that killed four unarmed military observers, but avoiding any condemnation.

All 15 council members agreed on the watered-down statement, the first by the Security Council since fighting began July 12 between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas.

The United Nations observer post of the U.N Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in south Lebanon that was destroyed by Israeli forces is seen in this photo released July 27, 2006.
The United Nations observer post of the U.N Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in south Lebanon that was destroyed by Israeli forces is seen in this photo released July 27, 2006. [Reuters]

In the only reference to the wider conflict, the council expressed its "deep concern for Lebanese and Israeli civilian casualties and sufferings, the destruction of civil infrastructures and the rising number of internally displaced people in Lebanon."

The statement was read at a formal meeting by the council president, France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere. Unlike press statements, presidential statements become part of the council's official record.

The United States, Israel's closest ally, insisted on dropping any condemnation or allusion to the possibility that Israel deliberately targeted the U.N. post Tuesday in the town of Khiam near the Lebanese-Israeli border.

The initial draft proposed by China would have expressed shock and distress at Israel's "apparently deliberate targeting" of the U.N. base and condemned "this coordinated artillery and aerial attack on a long-established and clearly marked U.N. post."

That wording was similar to Secretary-General Kofi Annan's statement Tuesday that Israel appeared to have struck the site deliberately - an accusation Israel vehemently denies.

The final text said "the Security Council is deeply shocked and distressed by the firing by the Israeli Defense Forces on a United Nations Observer post in southern Lebanon."

It dropped a call for a joint investigation but called on Israel to take into account "any relevant material from U.N. authorities, and to make the results public as soon as possible."

Israel's U.N. Ambassador Dan Gillerman called the statement "very fair and balanced." He expressed "deep regret for the tragic accident," repeated Israel's dismay at Annan's statement, and stressed that "Israel would never, ever target U.N. personnel."

Assistant Secretary-General Jane Lute told the council Wednesday that the base came under close Israeli fire 21 times, including 12 hits within 100 yards and four direct hits. U.N. officials in New York and Lebanon repeatedly protested to Israel in the hours before a bomb leveled the building and killed the four observers, she said.

The wife of a Canadian peacekeeper killed in the boming demanded to know Thursday why Israeli missiles struck the U.N. site where her husband was stationed as a military observer despite what she said were repeated pleas by observers there to halt the firing.

Cynthia Hess-von Kruedener, said in Kingston, Ontario, said her husband, Maj. Paeta Hess-von Kruedner, had told her the U.N. site had been fired upon for weeks, even though its vehicles and buildings were clearly marked.

Despite the final statement being "watered down," China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya said the council "is not only doing justice to the victims and their families, but also, more important ... to tens of thousands of women and men who are working for this organization all over the world."

Wang told reporters he remains frustrated at the difficult negotiations on such an important issue, and said this would definitely affect "working relations" in the council on other issues, including Iran. While he named no names, it was clear that Wang's frustration was aimed at the United States.


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