Skip to comments.Annan should have known better (wrong or dishonest on law of conflict)
Posted on 07/28/2006 9:25:07 PM PDT by GMMAC
Annan should have known better:
Israel's record of care suggests bombing
of UN peacekeeping post was accidental
The Edmonton Journal
Fri 28 Jul 2006
Byline: Lorne Gunter
You would think if anyone would understand the international laws of conflict, it would be UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
But apparently not.
His remarks, made through a spokesman Wednesday, that the Israeli bombing of a UN peacekeeping post was "apparently deliberate" were absurd, even if he has since (largely) retracted them.
Israel's military and civilian leaders are keenly conscious of three things when undertaking military missions: what their military goals are, the need to minimize civilian casualties while achieving those goals, and the adverse consequences for them in world opinion when they lose sight of No. 2 while achieving No. 1.
Israel, when it can, minimizes the risk to non-combatants from aerial bombardments by putting its own soldiers in on the ground.
It will send in ground troops to take a town or stronghold rather than risk a lot of civilian deaths by flattening the target from the air. Or it will tip its hand -- and again put its own troops' and pilots' lives on the line -- by warning civilians in advance of the areas it intends to attack next.
During our evacuation of Canadian citizens from Lebanon, Israel suspended its shelling and bombing to give our boats time to load and depart.
So it would be out of character for Israel to intentionally inflict casualties on a post of unarmed UN truce observers. Besides, the PR damage from such an attack among an already hostile international press corps makes it not in Israel's interest.
What's more, Annan should know that when one side in a conflict uses a neutral party's position -- such as a UN ceasefire observation post -- as a shield for its attacks, the destruction and any neutral-party deaths that result are the responsibility of original attacker, not the retaliator.
In other words, if Hezbollah, knowing that Israel would be reluctant to fire back near a UN base, was deliberately using Team Sierra's observer outpost as cover for its ground or missile attacks, then Israel's accidental destruction of UN Patrol Base Khiam on Tuesday rests on Hezbollah's heads, not the Israelis'.
That goes for the deaths of four UN peacekeepers killed in the raid, too, including Edmonton-based Maj. Paeta Hess-von Kruedener.
It is possible Israel bears some responsibility in the attack, though, even if the destruction of the UN base was purely accidental.
Jane Holl Lute, a deputy head of UN peacekeeping operations, told the Security Council on Wednesday that there were 21 strikes within 300 metres of the observer post during the six hours before it was destroyed, and yet "to our knowledge ... Hezbollah firing was not taking place within the immediate vicinity of the patrol base."
"To our knowledge" is a pretty big caveat. Given that the UN mandarins passing judgment on the tragic incident have a habit of turning a blind eye to aggression by terror groups and dictators -- and are particularly good at ignoring aggression against Israel -- and given that they were thousands of kilometres away at the time, it is quite possible their "knowledge" is a bit off.
It is entirely possible that Hezbollah fighters were firing on the Israelis, or getting ready to launch Katyusha rockets, and that Israel used shelling and aerial bombing in an effort to make them stop. But it is also possible there was no Hezbollah aggression.
The observers at Khiam asked the Israel Defence Force for an "abatement" -- a temporary cessation of the shelling -- 12 times in the hours before an Israeli jet's bomb went astray, destroying the patrol base and those within its fences. Since the observers (far more than their bureaucratic bosses in New York) were keenly aware of Hezbollah activity in their area, and of Israel's need and right to end it by any means, it seems unlikely they would have asked so often for a ceasefire if they saw Hezbollah attacking Israeli positions.
Israel's strikes may have been pre-emptory. And the international laws of conflict are a little less cut-and-dried when there is no immediate cause for a defensive attack.
If Israel could have granted the requested abatement without putting its own forces or civilians at increased risk from an imminent attack, it had an obligation to do so. If it could have delayed its shelling by a few hours to give the UN observers time to reach safety, without increasing the likelihood of a Hezbollah rocket attack on farms in Northern Israel, it should have.
If Israelis were not in any immediate danger -- if, as Holl Lute claims, there was no Hezbollah firing in the area when the UN base was destroyed -- that still does not make the tragic attack deliberate, even as it increases Israel's responsibility for the deaths and destruction.
Israel's attack was an accident.
The deaths may have been caused by a so-called "smart" bomb. But even the smartest ordnance can go off target by a few metres and end up killing bystanders.
At least Israel is conducting an investigation of its actions. The truth will come out. If a Hezbollah bomb had caused the deaths and destruction there would be no chance of that.
Err, why would you think that? The man's a dolt.
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