Israel has protested the action of two United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) soldiers who were photographed by the Associated Press while saluting coffins of Hizbullah terrorists freed by Israel.
UNIFIL is mandated to patrol southern Lebanon and prevent Hizbullah from re-arming. Its original mandate also calls on them to disarm the terrorist organization, but UNIFIL officers said at the outset of their mission they would not try to carry out the orders.
The photograph shows the soldiers saluting the coffins, which passed through the coastal city of Tyre and bore a large image of Hizbullah mastermind terrorist Imad Mughibyeh, who was assassinated in Syria earlier this year.
This is a very tragic and sad day for the United Nations when its soldiers who were sent there because of Hezbollah terrorist activities salute the terrorists and the killers.
Outgoing Israel Ambassador to the U.N. Dan Gillerman said he was "shocked and horrified" by the photograph. “I think this is a very tragic and sad day for the United Nations when its soldiers who were sent there because of Hizbullah terrorist activities salute the terrorists and the killers,” Gillerman said. He urged the U.N. to return the soldiers to their home countries because they "compromised the integrity of the United Nations." The soldiers' identifies were not confirmed, but one report said they are from Italy.
However, a UNIFIL spokeswoman said the soldiers routinely salute all coffins that are draped with Lebanese national flags. Another spokesman, Farhan Haq, told Fox News that the peacekeeping force "is an impartial source; it doesn’t show a bias for either side."
Israel released the bodies of 199 dead terrorists as well as 5 living terrorists, including child murderer Samir Kuntar, in exchange for the bodies of kidnapped and murdered IDF reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, who were returned to their families on Wednesday.