Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The "Fog of War" Turns Sinister

The Washington Post reported on July 26 the killing of 4 unarmed United Nations observers in their fortified post late Tuesday. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan was "shocked and deeply distressed by the apparently deliberate targeting". These comments drew criticism by some, accusing Annan of jumping to conclusions. Maybe these people should've taken a look at the details of the incident first.

The 4 U.N. observers started receiving Israeli bombardment nearby the observation post Tuesday morning and took shelter in a bunker under their post. The post lies near the hilltop town of Khiyam, is very clearly marked and has been there for eighteen years. Israel knew it was there. Both the BBC and the Guardian are reporting that U.N. commanders asked the Israelis 10 times over the course of the day to stop the bombing on their position. According to the Guardian:

Jane Lute, the assistant secretary general for peacekeeping, told the UN security council that the base came under close Israeli fire 21 times - including 12 hits within 100 metres and four direct hits - from 1.20pm until contact was lost with the four peacekeepers inside at 7.17pm."

Ms Lute said the peacekeeping force had protested to the Israeli army after each firing incident. The UN's deputy secretary general, Mark Malloch Brown, and Ms Lute herself also made several calls to Israel's mission to the UN "reiterating these protests and calling for an abatement of the shelling", she said.

After contact with the base was lost, Unifil then won safe passage for two armoured personnel carriers to evacuate the position, she said. They arrived at 9.30pm "and found the shelter collapsed and major damage to the rest of the position". Despite negotiating safe passage, the APCs also came under Israeli attack, Ms Lute said.

Earlier, the United Nations general secretary, Kofi Annan, accused the Israeli military of carrying out a sustained bombing of the UN base on the Lebanon-Israel border that culminated in the killing of four unarmed monitors.

Mr Annan said he had suggested to the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, that they carry out a joint investigation into the events that led to the shelling of the "well-established and well marked" Unifil (UN interim force in Lebanon) post in the town of Khiyam.

"I spoke to Mr Olmert and he definitely believes it was a mistake and has expressed his deep sorrow, " Mr Annan told a press conference in Rome. "But the shelling started in the morning and went on until after 7pm. You cannot imagine the anguish of the unarmed men and women peacekeepers who were there."

Clearly, either the artillery gunners (who already knew the post was there) didn't receive these pleas from the U.N. during the day, or did and chose to ignore them. Perhaps someone in the Israeli chain of command chose not to pass along the information. According to the BBC, the post was hit with a "precision-guided missile after six hours of shelling".

Of course Ehud Olmert has expressed "deep sorrow", according to Annan, and has promised a full investigation into the incident. I should say so.

Along with reports of bombardments near hospitals and civilian vehicles being targeted deliberately by Israeli helicopter gunships, this is only another example of the clear lack of any kind of regard for civilian life being shown by the Israelis. 'Well, Hizbollah targets civilians too!' is the typically Neanderthal response to this. Well, if Israel is such a 'progressive' and 'civilized' nation, as so many claim, then why are they exhibiting the same type of behavior as a terrorist organization? But then again, her benefactor the U.S., doesn't exactly set a great example.

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