Photo: AFP
UN tanks in Lebanon
Photo: AFP

UN: Israel blocked investigators

UN says Israel refused to give UN investigators access to IDF officials suspected of being responsible for bombing of UN base in Lebanon

Israel refused to give a UN-appointed investigation access to the officials who may have been responsible for the bombing of an observation post that killed four unarmed peacekeepers at the height of the conflict with Hizbullah, the United Nations said Friday.


Israel said the bombing of the UN peacekeeping post along the Israeli-Lebanese border was a mistake that occurred at the "operational level." The UN panel investigating the killings was not allowed to interview commanders at that level to determine what happened, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.


The statement was delivered shortly after the Board of Inquiry investigating the attack submitted a confidential report with its findings to the UN and to the four nations whose observers were killed - Austria, Canada, China and Finland. The report was not sent to Israel.


Dujarric's statement said it concluded that there was nothing else the United Nations could have done "that would have changed the outcome."


The four observers were killed by an Israeli precision-guided bomb that destroyed the bunker where they took shelter after their observation post near the town of Khiam came under heavy fire. UN officials in New York and Lebanon had repeatedly warned Israel that the observation post, built 30 years before, was under attack.


Because of Israel's refusal, the inquiry was "unable to determine why the attacks on the UN position were not halted despite repeated demarches to the Israeli authorities from UN personnel, both in the field and at headquarters," Dujarric said.


Israel has blamed inaccurate maps for its mistake, and said the airplane that dropped the bomb thought it was targeting Hizbullah. Hizbullah was active in the area, with a post about 150 yards away.


Asked to comment on Dujarric's statement, the spokeswoman for Israel's UN mission, Anat Friedman, said: "Israel has expressed its regret for the unfortunate event and has investigated the tragic incident."

Friedman refused to comment on the UN claim that the investigators had not been allowed to interview some officials.


A UN official said Israel never sufficiently explained why it kept bombing the base.


"We do not have a satisfactory answer as to why those attempts failed," said the official, who spoke anonymously because the report was confidential. "The Israelis are fully aware of our position on this incident."


The official said there was nothing in the Board of Inquiry's findings to contradict UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's earlier claim that the attack was "apparently deliberate.


פרסום ראשון: 09.30.06, 08:37
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