On July 25, an Israeli air strike led to the tragic deaths of four UN peacekeepers manning an observation post in southern Lebanon. The world reacted with widespread condemnation of Israel. United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan even accused Israel of deliberately targeting the peacekeepers. These were his words on that day:
I am shocked and deeply distressed by the apparently deliberate targeting by Israeli Defense Forces of a United Nations observer post in southern Lebanon that has killed two United Nations military observers, with two more feared dead (SG/SM/10577).Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, justifiably, reacted with outrage. The charge that Israel deliberately targeted the peacekeepers has never made sense to me. Some of our readers will recall the discussion about this incident that took place on these pages about this question. I was especially disturbed that a teacher of mine, whose judgment I respect, was convinced that Annan had been right. This person told me that because the position of the peacekeepers had been so well-marked, it was clear that the air strike had been part of a deliberate attempt to discourage an international or UN-sponsored peacekeeping intervention in the war. My teacher was unequivocal that the attack was deliberate, and that it would be "hard to convince many of us otherwise." In retrospect, this makes very little sense. First of all, deliberately targeting UN personnel blatantly contradicted military directives and law. Second, Israel has actually welcomed the new UN peacekeeing force, so that the idea that this was a signal to discourage such a peacekeeping missions lacks traction.
Canadian newspapers have been following this story carefully from the beginning, in part because the country lost one of its soldiers in the incident. (The other peacekeepers were from China, Finland, and Austria respectively). On July 27, the Ottawa Citizen reported that Major Paeta Hess-von Kruedener, the Canadian in the outpost, a few days before July 25, had sent reports which implied that Hizbullah had been using the UN soldiers as human shields. Now, the Globe and Mail has a report on the latest findings by an Israeli inquiry into the incident. First of all, it turns out that Hizbullah was firing rockets from a position only 180 meters away from the UN outpost. Apparently, it was the deployment of new Israeli forces in the area that led to this tragic mistake. The new deployment required a duplication of charts and maps of the area; in the course of this duplication, Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mark Regev said, the UN position was not accurately marked on the duplicated maps.