A probe into the Israeli killing of UN monitors was unable to determine why the attacks had not been prevented despite repeated appeals from UN personnel, UN senior officials said Friday.
A Board of Inquiry appointed to investigate the incident at Khiam, Lebanon in which four UN military observers were killed in July submitted its report to the secretary-general, but does not verify or refute the Israeli position that the attack was a mistake.
Appointed by the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the board noted that Israel accepted full responsibility for the attack on the post and apologized for what they called an "operational level" mistake.
Still, at a background press briefing Friday, UN officials were clearly unsatisfied with the scope of the report. Senior UN officials said: "The board did not have access to operational or tactical level IDF commanders involved in the incident, and was therefore 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."
A UN senior official said the munitions were "precision-guided and meant to hit the target they hit, which was the United Nations." The patrol base at Khiam was struck by a 500 kg. precision-guided aerial bomb and destroyed on July 25, killing four observers from Austria, Canada, China and Finland. On that day UNIFIL said 21 strikes were made within 300-meters of the patrol base. Each one was protested by the UN to the IDF. Additionally, UN Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown also made several calls to Israel's UN mission.
A statement made by the UN said the board's report concluded that all standard UN operating procedures had been followed and there was no additional action UN personnel could have taken that would have avoided the outcome.
On the day of the incident, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that the attack was "apparently deliberate." Though nothing in the new report suggests that this was the case, it also does not explain why the "operational error" occurred, leaving UN officials visibly unsatisfied.
"The Israeli cooperation leaves questions," the UN official said. "War is hell, peacekeeping is not supposed to be." Officials said there was no evidence of Hizbullah firing on July 25, the day of the attack, though they did say that Hizbullah guerrillas had a base 150 meters away as well as an operation out of a nearby prison.
Israel conducted its own investigation and released a report with its findings on September 15. In it Israeli officials concluded that the maps they had were faulty.
Though UN officials said the investigation was final, they are still at work at reviewing the findings and will make recommendations accordingly. Among other things, the recommendations will refer to accountability and the operational disposition and conduct.
A UN official said the report had a number of conclusions that would be studied, adding "I don't think anyone has said this is closed." Asked about compensation, officials said the UN has procedures to provide compensation for those who die in the line of duty.
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