Artillery bombardment `defied orders'

Israeli artillery which shelled the UN base at Qana in southern Lebanon, killing 110 Lebanese refugees, ignored the "safety ring" marked around UN bases, in defiance of standing orders, the Independent has learned.

The Israeli guns were firing at near-maximum range - 10 miles - and firing over the UN base at Hizbollah rocket launchers 300 yards to the north. At that range, Israeli sources said, the natural dispersion of shells in an elliptical pattern along the line of fire led some to fall short.

The UN military adviser to the Secretary-General, General Frank van Kappen, arrived in Beirut on Friday, the day after the Qana shelling, to conduct an investigation into the attack. He will also visit Jerusalem before submitting his report.

The UN said yesterday that six 155mm shells landed within the UN base. Between 50 and 70 shells landed in the Qana area during that day.

Israeli sources denied suggestions that the attack on the UN base was deliberate. Although both the UN and the Israeli Defence Forces have not yet completed formal investigations, it now looks likely that the artillery commander on the spot will be blamed for ignoring the safety margin around the known Fijian UN base at Qana and firing too hastily on the position from which Hizbollah had fired a number of BM-21 rockets.

It now seems clear that the Israelis fired as quickly as possible, to hit the Hizbollah gunners before they could escape, and did not fire ranging shots. Had the Hizbollah position been to one side of of the UN base, relative to the position of the guns, there might not have been a problem. However, the UN said the Hizbollah position was directly north of the UN base, only 300 yards away.

The M109A1 self-propelled howitzers used by the Israelis have a maximum range of about 18km, and were, according to Israeli sources, firing from 15km or 16 km. At that range, the shells will spread across a "beaten zone" along the line of fire. Some will land short or beyond the target.

Had the Israelis observed the "safety ring", they would not have risked some of the shells falling into the UN base. It appears that on this occasion a local commander may have ignored the standing orders which have a "safety ring" around each known UN site. The UN has had troops in the Qana base for 18 years.

According to UN sources in Lebanon, the Israeli shells were fitted with M732 radar fuses, which detonate them at 7m off the ground, the most lethal possible height, blasting fragments downwards to amputate, maim and kill.

The Israelis were using a US-built radar system, "Firefinder", to detect and plot the launch of the Hizbollah rockets. The radar will plot the position to within a ten-figure grid reference. This is then keyed into the fire control computer, which will produce settings for each of the guns distributed around the firing positions, so that their fire will converge on the target. However, at near- maximum range there will still be some dispersion. The Israeli sources also suggested the coordinates may not have been transcribed accurately.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy