CHINA / National

Team to escort observer's remains back home
Updated: 2006-07-27 15:54

The deaths raised questions about whether peacekeepers should remain in south Lebanon while the international community debates whether to send in new forces. France and others have suggested UNIFIL could help deliver aid or protect humanitarian workers.

Both the 2,000-soldier UN Interim Force in Lebanon and the 155-strong UN Truce Supervision Organization remain in the area despite intense fighting between Israel and Lebanon's Hizbollah militia.

Observers asked Israel to stop bombing 10 times before post was hit

UN observers in Lebanon telephoned the Israeli military 10 times in six hours to ask it to stop shelling near their position before an attack killed four observers and sparked international anger against Israel, UN officials said

The UN observation post near Khiam came under close Israeli fire 21 times Tuesday, including 12 hits within 100 yards and five direct hits from 1:20 p.m. until the peacekeepers' post was destroyed at 7:30 p.m., Jane Lute, assistant secretary-general for peacekeeping, told the UN Security Council in New York on Wednesday.

UN officials said Hezbollah militants had been operating in the area of the post near the eastern end of the border with Israel, a routine tactic to prevent Israel from attacking them.

A Lebanese man reacts as he looks at destruction caused by Israeli air strikes in the southern suburbs of Beirut, a strong hold of Hezbollah, July 25, 2006. [AFP]

"We did repeatedly in recent days say (to Israel) that this was an exposed position, that Hezbollah militants were 500 meters (yards) away shielding themselves near UN workers and civilians," UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland said. "That's why it is so inexplicable that what happened."

Israeli officials had told the United Nations that the bombing around the base was part of an "an aerial preparation for a ground operation," said the senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Officials in the outpost called the Israeli army 10 times during those six hours, and each time an army official promised to have the bombing stopped, according to a preliminary UN report on the incident.

Once it became clear those pleas were being ignored, the force's commander sought the involvement of top officials in New York, a senior UN official in New York said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation of the incident was not yet complete.
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