Just hours after United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan convened a Security Council meeting on the latest violence in Lebanon, the 15-member body deplored last night’s Israeli attack on the village of Qana, where over 50 civilians, mostly children, were reported killed.
“The Security Council expresses its extreme shock and distress at the shelling by the Israeli Defense Forces of a residential building in Qana, in southern Lebanon, which has caused the killing of dozens of civilians, mostly children, and injured many others,” Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere of France, which holds the Council’s rotating presidency this month, said in a formal statement.
“The Security Council strongly deplores this loss of innocent lives and the killing of civilians in the present conflict, and requests the Secretary-General to report to it within one week on the circumstances of this tragic incident,” he said.
The statement also called for an end to violence, stressing the urgency of securing a lasting, permanent and sustainable ceasefire. Voicing concern at the toll of Lebanese and Israeli civilian casualties and human suffering, the widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure and the increased number of internally displaced persons, the Council urged all parties “to grant immediate and unlimited access to humanitarian assistance.”
“The Security Council affirms its determination to work without any further delay to adopt a resolution for a lasting settlement of the crisis, drawing on diplomatic efforts underway,” the French Ambassador said.
Addressing the Council earlier in the day, Mr. Annan, in a strongly worded statement, urged the members to condemn the attack on Qana and call for an immediate cessation of hostilities. He warned against inaction, saying: “The authority and standing of this Council are at stake.”
He also reported on demonstrations against the UN in Beirut, and appealed to all people everywhere to respect UN personnel. Mr. de La Sabliere, in his statement on behalf of the Council, deplored any action against UN personnel, and called for full respect for their safety and security as well as that of all UN premises.
Earlier today, some Lebanese broke into the UN headquarters in Beirut and briefly set it on fire. Three staff members were reported injured, none critically, and the fire was put out. The Personal Representative of the Secretary General for Lebanon, Geir Pedersen, issued a statement saying he was “deeply shocked and saddened” by the incidents in Qana, and calling for immediate cessation of hostilities and investigations.
“This tragic event demonstrates the urgency for all parties to heed the United Nations repeated calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities,” he said. “Civilians have been paying the heaviest price for this war and I reiterate calls by the Secretary-General of the United Nations to all parties concerned to respect international humanitarian law and spare the civilians further suffering and loss.”
In addition, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon today protested to the Israeli and Lebanese authorities after firing near its positions, including five aerial rockets from the Israeli side that impacted in the area of Addaisseh yesterday afternoon. One exploded in the air above the position and two UNIFIL soldiers from the Indian battalion were moderately wounded and evacuated to the UNIFIL hospital in Ibil As Saqy.
Meanwhile, today in Jerusalem a memorial service was held for four UN Military Observers killed last week during an Israeli aerial bombardment Patrol Base Khiyam in southern Lebanon. “We must honour their work by ensuring that the death and destruction come to an end as soon as possible, and by bringing help to all those whose lives are being torn apart,” Mr. Annan said in a message to the solemn gathering that was delivered by his aide, Alvaro de Soto.