Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Israeli Airstrike Kills 4 at UN Compound and the "Grapes of Wrath"

BBC reports that "Israeli Bombs Kill UN Observers", quoting Kofi Annan as calling the attack "apparently deliberate." The BBC does not include Israeli officials statements about the matter that "'We do not have yet confirmation what caused these deaths. It could be (Israel Defense Forces). It could be Hezbollah,' he said." Of course Danny Ayalon, Israeli ambassador to the U.S. was not there and cannot really know what happened.

CNN took up the story as a he-said-she-said headline "Accusations Fly After UN Observer Killed."

I am a little curious to why BBC did not include statements like the one in CNN, but I trust they have good reason to believe UN representatives. Indeed, it seems clear that Israel, rather than Hezbollah, hit the UN compound with an airstrike. The only question is whether the UN is the deliberate target.

Perhaps Israel thought they saw rockets being loaded into UN ambulances, though it "might have been a stretcher rather than a rocket." Kofi Annan called the claim "malicious propaganda" before Israel retracted it. So perhaps Kofi Annan and the IDF have some bad blood already.

The real curiosity is that the media does not mention that Israel has bombed UN outposts in Lebanon before, in the 1996 bombing campaign nicknamed after a John Steinbeck novel, the "Grapes of Wrath Campaign" in which 100 civilian refugees were killed at a UN compound that was targeted in Qana. That mass killing is described by Robert Fisk here.

That bombing might have been the reason the UN has turned away refugees this time around, some of whom were killed in Israeli airstrikes on their fleeing convoy.

A LA Times story carried the statement by Daniel Ayalon that "accused Hezbollah militants of positioning rocket launchers beside U.N. sites, a practice reported by U.N. officials in recent days." Though the syntax made it unclear if the paper confirmed that U.N. officials had reported this practice.

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