UN observer: Hizbullah using us as shields
Six days before his death in IAF bombing, Canadian observer Major Paeta Hess-von Kruedener sends email to his former commander, says Hizbullah operating near UN post in southern Lebanon. His commander reveals he said IDF strike aimed at hitting terrorists, not foreign observers. His wife Cynthia, however, accuses Israel of intentionally bombing post
Six days before he was killed in an Israel Air Force bombing of a United Nations post in southern Lebanon, Canadian observer Major Paeta Hess-von Kruendener sent an email to his former commander in the Canadian army, in which he said that Hizbullah fighters were "running around" near the UN post struck by the Israel Defense Forces and that they were using the post as a sort of "shield" against Israel's strikes.
The former commander, Major-General Lewis MacKenzie, who served as a UN commander in Bosnia, spoke about the email in a Canadian radio show. He said that Hess-von Kruendener wrote that the IDF strikes near the post had "not been deliberate targeting, but rather due to tactical necessity."
"That would mean Hizbullah was purposely setting up near the UN post," he added. "It's a tactic."
Hess-von Kruendener even sent an email to the Canadian television network CTV a few days before his death, in which he spoke about the IDF's bombardments near his UN post and said that he feared for his life.
He sought to provide the public in his country with a "Canadian outlook" on the war in Lebanon from a post of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, at a distance of 10 kilometers (6.21 miles) from the country's border with Israel.
Another three UN observers were killed in the strike.
In an email sent six days before he was killed, Hess-von Kruendener wrote that he felt he was in great danger.
"What I can tell you is this. We have on a daily basis had numerous occasions where our position has come under direct or indirect fire from both artillery and aerial bombing. The closest artillery has landed within 2 meters (6.562 feet) of our position and the closest 1000 lb aerial bomb has landed 100 meters (328.1 feet) from our patrol base," he said.
The Canadian soldier tried to describe his experiences as an unarmed soldier who is nonetheless in the line of fire.
The UN post, he wrote, provided a view of the "Hizbullah static positions in and around our patrol Base."
"It appears that the lion's share of fighting between the IDF and Hizbullah has taken place in our area," he wrote, adding that it was too dangerous to venture out on patrols.
Hess-von Kruendener, whose last letters were quoted in many Canadian and global media outlets, was stationed at a UNIFIL post in southern Lebanon for nine months. He served as a Canadian Forces infantry officer for 20 years and was previously stationed in Cyprus, Congo and Kosovo.
'Israelis chose to bomb that site'
Hess-von Kruendener wife, Cynthia, demanded that Israel answer her question why the IDF struck the UN post.
"I've been told ... that the Israelis chose to bomb that site with three guided missiles. They're UN soldiers. That should have been the safest place to be. They should not have bombed that site, period," the widow told reporters at a Canadian forces base in Kingston, Ontario.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert phoned UN Secretary General Kofi Annan Wednesday morning to express his deep regret over the death of four UN observers in Lebanon.
Olmert told Annan that he has instructed the IDF to thoroughly investigate the incident, adding that he would share the findings with the secretary general once they are in.
During the conversation the prime minister said he was taken aback by the statement made by Annan following the incident.
Speaking in Rome, where he was to attend an international conference on the 13-day Lebanese crisis, Annan said he was "shocked" at Israel's "apparently deliberate targeting" of the UN post. He later regretted his remark.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni also referred to the Annan's remark during a press conference in Haifa on Wednesday, saying that "there will be no army commander that would intentionally direct fire at civilians or UN observers."
According to Livni, "we expressed our regret over the incident. I spoke to the foreign ministers of Austria and Canada, whose soldiers were killed yesterday, and I apologized for the incident."
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that he did not believe Israel intentionally attacked the UN post.
"I certainly doubt that to be the case. Israel was cooperating with us in our evacuation efforts, in our efforts to move Canadian citizens out of Lebanon," he said.
News agencies contributed to the report