Israel: 'Along with everybody else we are sorry for the harm done to ci vilians'

UN condemns 'deliberate' attack
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The Independent Online
The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, condemned the shelling by Israel of a UN peace-keeping unit in southern Lebanon, as senior officials indicated that they believed the attack had been deliberate.

The Israeli strike, which flattened the headquarters of a Fijian peacekeeping battalion in southern Lebanon, triggered a diplomatic furore at UN headquarters in New York as Arab governments demanded action by the Security Council to bring an end to Israel's military activities in the area.

A statement issued by the UN secretariat said that the Mr Boutros-Ghali had learned of the attack with "shock and horror" and that he "deplores and condemns this shelling in the strongest possible terms".

On the critical issue of whether Israeli forces had targeted the facility, a top adviser to the Secretary-General, replied: "Yes. The Israeli defence forces know the precise positions of every UN unit that is deployed (in the region)."

UN officials simultaneously confirmed reports that Hizbollah guerrillas had launched Katyusha rockets and mortars at Israel from a placement roughly 300 metres from the UN facility, which was crowded with more than 5,000 refugees seeking shelter.

The Fijian unit is part of the Unifil force that has been deployed in southern Lebanon since 1978 and which now numbers 4,568 soldiers. Nine different countries make up the force, which is under the command of Major- General Stanislaw Wozniak, of Poland.

Information about the guerrilla activity near the site barely mitigated the UN's anger, however. Sylvana Foa, a UN spokeswoman, pointedly noted that the "Israelis have been given precise locations of all Unifil positions and given precise positions of all humanitarian convoys in the area". She added that the installation used by the Fijians had been in the same spot for "years and years".

It also emerged that Maj-Gen Wozniak had objected repeatedly to the Israeli command over recent days about the threat that its military activities posed to the Fijian headquarters and the civilians sheltering inside it. The senior military adviser to Mr Boutros-Ghali, Frank Van Kappen of the Netherlands, was meanwhile dispatched to the area to try to ensure that the incident is not repeated elsewhere.

Leading the calls for Security Council action was the Lebanese ambassador to the UN, Samir Moubarak. He accused Israel of flouting the UN charter and specifically Security Council Resolution 425 of March 1978, which called for the withdrawal of all Israeli forces from his country and led to the establishment of Unifil.

"It is high time for the Israelis to understand that they have to comply fully with international law," he declared in New York. "They have to comply with the resolution (425) and withdraw immediately from our country. The cycle of violence taking place is a direct consequence of the occupation of Lebanon."

However, efforts by the Security Council to agree a French-drafted resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire apparently faced not unexpected opposition from America. Many diplomats considered it likely that some resolution would emerge last night. However, the US was believed to be wary of any text that appeared to condemn Israel, including one that called for a ceasefire.