From CNN:

An Israeli airstrike hit a United Nations post in southern Lebanon late Tuesday, killing at least two of the agency’s observers, according to the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon. […] Daniel Ayalon, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, said that “UNIFIL obviously got caught in the middle” of a gunfight between Hezbollah guerillas and Israeli troops. […] U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he was “deeply distressed” by the “apparently deliberate” strike. “This coordinated artillery and aerial attack on a long-established and clearly marked U.N. post at Khiyam occurred despite personal assurances given to me by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that U.N. positions would be spared Israeli fire,” he said in a statement.

[…] Ayalon called Annan’s statement “outrageous,” while Israel’s U.N. ambassador, Dan Gillerman, said he, too, was “deeply distressed” that Annan alleged that the strike was deliberate. “I am surprised at these premature and erroneous assertions made by the secretary-general, who while demanding an investigation, has already issued its conclusions,” Gillerman said in a statement.

[…] About 100 Hezbollah rockets were fired into Israel on Tuesday, striking the cities of Haifa, Carmiel, Kyrat Shmona and Nahiriya, according to the IDF. [“U.N.: Israeli airstrike hits U.N. observer post”, July 26, 2006]

Comments The Free West blog: on the UN Interim Force in Lebanon:

[UNIFL] looked on as Hizballah fortified southern Lebanon, it failed to prevent Hizballah carrying out attacks on Israel. Throughout, Hizballah has used UNIFIL to give cover in battle and to limit Israel’s options when counterattacking, while UNIFIL’s tacit approval of Hizballah’s presence has lent it apparent legitimacy.

UNIFIL has provided more security to Hizballah than it has to Israel, thereby increasing the likelihood of conflict and helping to make the current war inevitable. Even if they wanted to, the troops could not escape the distorted political constraints imposed by the organization and the nations that sent them. Nor could they escape the iron law of peacekeeping forces: those that are “successful” are not necessary, and those that are most necessary are doomed to failure.’

As recent UNIFIL press releases show, in the last two weeks Hizballah has been firing at Israel from the vicinity of its bases, drawing Israeli fire to the international observers. This is a deliberate ploy to endanger UNIFIL personnel. Israel has fired at Hizballah targets being careful to avoid endangering UN lives. That one shell eventually went astray and killed four UNIFIL soldiers is an accident for which Israel has apologised and which will be the subject of an official inquiry.

But to recap: Hizballah deliberately endanger UNIFIL lives; Israel deliberately tries to avoid endangering UNIFIL lives. This is an important difference, because Israel isn’t fighting against an army that operates according to normal rules of engagement. The Geneva Conventions are a Western invention that organisations like Hizballah and al Qaeda reject. Their rules are the Koranic rules of war, the rules of war of seventh-century desert brigands. When Israel fires shells and drops bombs it avoids civilian casualties, warning townspeople to leave before they plan their strike. When Hizballah fires its rockets its intention is precisely to cause as many civilian casualties as possible. […]

Hizballah’s ethics are totally different from those of Israel. When a Hizballah rocket team fires a Katyusha they hope to kill as many people as possible – the warheads are packed with ball-bearings to heighten their effect. When Israeli artillery units fire shells their aim is to stop the Katyusha teams, destroy their launchers, their stockpiles of weapons, their bases, their infrastructure. What Israel specifically tries to avoid is killing civilians. If an Israeli attack results in the death of non-military personnel this is accidental collateral damage. To judge this as being anything other than negligence is to fall into the trap of ethics by result rather than intent.

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