UN removes observers from border

Decision follows IAF strike on UNTSO post earlier this week that killed four.

UN observers 298 (photo credit: AP)
UN observers 298
(photo credit: AP)
The United Nations has decided to remove 50 unarmed observers from their posts along the Israeli-Lebanese border, moving them in with the peacekeeping force in the area, a spokesman said Friday. The decision came after one of the posts of the observer force, known as UNTSO, was destroyed by an Israeli air strike earlier this week, killing four. "These are unarmed people and this is for their protection," said Milos Struger, a spokesman for UNIFIL, the peacekeeping force whose 2,000 members have light weapons for self-defense. UNTSO has about 50 observers in four posts along the border, two of which have already been abandoned - the one that was destroyed at Khiam and a second near the village of Maroun al-Ras, which was abandoned after one of the observers was seriously wounded by Hizbullah gunfire on July 23, said Milos Struger, spokesman for the UNIFIL peacekeepers. Staff were being removed from the remaining two posts to be placed at UNIFIL posts along the border, Struger said. He would not say whether the move had been completed. UNTSO - the UN Truce Supervision Organization - was established in 1948 to observe the cease-fire following the war that followed Israel's creation. UNIFIL - the UN Interim Force in Lebanon - was created to confirm Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 1978. It has over 30 observation posts and bases along the border, monitoring and reporting on violence in the region. The two organizations generally work together now. Rescue workers pulled out the bodies of three dead from the strike on the post in Khiam on Tuesday night. But attempts to pull out the fourth body still buried under the rubble the rubble have been suspended because heavy equipment cannot reach the site due to continued Israeli bombardment in the area, UNIFIL said in a statement. On July 17, a civilian staff member for UNIFIL and his wife, both Nigerian, were killed in their home by air strikes in the southern port city of Tyre, according to UNIFIL.