UN slams Israel for ‘excessive force’ on Nakba Day

IDF used “unnecessary force” against Palestinians who tried to forcibly enter Israel from Lebanon in May, UN report says.

By GIL STERN STERN SHEFLER
July 8, 2011 01:59
2 minute read.
Nakba Day protesters on Lebanon border

Nakba Day protesters on Lebanon border 311 (R). (photo credit: Sharif Karim / Reuters)

NEW YORK – The IDF used “unnecessary force” against Palestinians who tried to forcibly enter Israel from Lebanon on Nakba Day in May, according to a UN report leaked to the press on Wednesday.

The paper written by UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams pointed fingers at both sides, saying Israel used “force not commensurate to the threat” and Palestinians who tried to breach the fence near the Lebanese town of Maroun al-Ras were engaged in a “provocative and violent act.”

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“Other than firing initial warning shots, the Israel Defense Forces did not use conventional crowd-control methods or any other method than lethal weapons against the demonstrators,” the report said.

The investigation into the May 15 incident put the number of protesters who died in the violent clash at seven, not nine as had previously been reported. It also contested Israel’s claim that the deaths were caused by Lebanese troops trying to keep the crowd away from the border by firing warning shots, saying the fatalities were the result of live ammunition fired by Israeli soldiers at demonstrators who tried to cross the border.

Amir Weissbrod, a political consultant at the Israeli Mission to the UN, said on Thursday that Israel was disappointed in the probe carried out by Williams.

“When people throw anti-tank mines,” Weissbrod said, referring to Palestinians who dug the mines from the ground then threw them at Israeli soldiers, “this it is not an ordinary protest.”

The report unfairly singled out Israel while ignoring Lebanon’s responsibility as a sovereign state to prevent hostile acts from being carried out against its neighbors from its soil, Weissbrod said.

He also said the report ignored a perilous build up of weapons by Hezbollah in Lebanon aided by Syria.

“We believe there’s a significant change on the ground,” he said. “We believe [the arms build up] is not getting the appropriate attention.”

Some reports in the media said Israel was furious with Williams for his allegedly overly critical report. Weissbrod said in response to a question on the matter that the mission had expressed its position regarding the report in writing to the UN.

The report concluded with by a statement by UN Secretary-General Ban Kimoon who urged Israel to demonstrate greater restraint and called on protesters to refrain from violence.

“I call on the Israel Defense Forces to refrain from responding with live fire in such situations, except where clearly required in immediate self-defense,” Ban wrote. “[Protest organizers] were responsible for ensuring that demonstrators did not approach the technical fence and did not become violent.”


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