Security Council calls for comprehensive Israeli inquiry into killing of UN peacekeepers

UNIFIL was created in 1978 to confirm Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, restore the international peace and security, and help the Lebanese Government restore its effective authority in the area. (UN Photo/Ryan Brown)

Voicing its shock and distress at the Israeli Defence Forces’ (IDF) killing of four unarmed United Nations military observers in southern Lebanon on Tuesday, the Security Council today called on the Israeli Government to conduct a full investigation.

In a statement read out by Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sablière of France, its President for July, the 15-member Council stressed that “Israel and all concerned parties must comply fully with their obligations” under international humanitarian law on the protection of UN and associated personnel, and ensure that UN staff are not the object of attack.

Extending its deepest condolences to the families of the victims, the Council offered its sympathies to the governments of Austria, Canada, China and Finland, the nationalities of the fallen military observers from the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

The Council also expressed “deep concern for Lebanese and Israeli civilian casualties and sufferings, the destruction of civil infrastructure and the rising number” of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Lebanon.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan has already condemned the attack, while accepting an expression of sorrow from Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and proposing a joint UN-Israeli investigation into the killings.

The Council statement called on Israel to “conduct a comprehensive inquiry” and take into account any material gathered by the UN, and publish its results as soon as possible.

Three of the military observers, who were stationed at a long-standing UNIFIL post near the Lebanese town of Khiyam, have been confirmed dead, while the body of the fourth observer has not yet been recovered. The peacekeepers were killed when their post was struck in a direct hit by the IDF early on Tuesday evening, despite repeated requests during the afternoon from UNIFIL officials to Israel to protect that particular post from attack.

Meanwhile, in a statement today UNIFIL reported that in the past 24 hours there have been three incidents of firing close to UN positions from the Israeli side, while Hezbollah is reported to have fired from the vicinity of four UN positions.

More than 600 civilians from the southern Lebanese town of Naqoura and neighbouring villages have been sheltering inside UNIFIL’s headquarters in Naqoura in recent days, but most have now been given a humanitarian escort to the city of Tyre.

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