Annan Accuses Israel of "Apparently Deliberate" Killing

A crisis in the U.N. is brewing following charges by UN Chief Kofi Annan that Israel "apparently deliberately" attacked a UNIFIL post, killing four. Israel is "shocked" at the accusations.

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu and Hillel Fendel , | updated: 6:26 AM

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, speaking in Rome on Tuesday, said that the attack was an "apparently deliberate targeting" of the UNIFIL post. The victims included observers from Austria, Canada, China and Finland.

"I call on the government of Israel to conduct a full investigation into this very disturbing incident," Annan said, "and demand that any further attack on U.N. positions and personnel must stop." He said that this "coordinated artillery and aerial attack" occurred "despite personal assurances given to me by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that U.N. positions would be spared Israeli fire."

Foreign Minister Tzippy Livni called Annan's statement "more than disappointing." Dan Gillerman, Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations, was more outspoken, demanding an apology. He said he was "shocked" by Annan's "premature and erroneous" accusations.

Livni has expressed her condolences to her counterparts in Canada and Austria, and hopes to do the same with Finland and China. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expressed his deep apologies for the deaths of the UN personnel in a phone call to Annan on Wednesday morning.

General Alain Pelligrini, the UNIFIL commander in southern Lebanon, said he had been in repeated contact with Israeli officers throughout the day, stressing the need to protect the post. There were 14 incidents of firing close to the outpost before it was hit, UN officials said. The outpost is located adjacent to a Hizbullah position.

The IDF explained that the post is next to a Hizbullah base, was attacked by mistake, and that the incident - which occurred near the eastern end of the Lebanese-Israeli border - is being investigated.

UNIFIL positions have been hit frequently, and Hizbullah terrorists killed a civilian UNIFIL employee and his wife last week. Four members of the mission’s Ghanaian battalion were lightly injured Tuesday night when an IDF shell hit their position. Hizbullah terrorists fired at a U.N. convoy Wednesday morning, causing some damage but no casualties.

United States Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton confirmed the U.N. deaths. "We're obviously very sorry about that," he said, while the U.S. State Department commented, "We have heard from the Israelis that it was an accident."

The bombing occurred in the midst of continued fighting between Hizbullah terrorists and the IDF at the nearby village of Bint Jbeil, considered the southern Lebanon capital of the terrorist organization. It is located slightly more than two miles north of the Israeli border.

The incident is likely to give ammunition to proponents of an immediate cease fire, who were to promote their proposal at an international conference in Rome on Wednesday aimed at stopping the war. Lebanon and its Arab allies will push for an immediate ceasefire. Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said Tuesday, "We will go to Rome to explain Lebanon's position . . . before the representatives of the world in the face of the barbaric attacks against the Lebanese people . . . and to expose the Israeli war crimes."

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has rejected the proposal as not providing "a durable solution" to the presence of Hizbullah terrorists.

Saudi Arabia, which pleaded to the Bush administration for an immediate cease fire on the eve of Secretary Rice's departure for the Middle East and Rome, warned that the war will widen if Israel's retaliation is not halted. Saudi Arabia, Jordan's King Abdullah, and others have denounced Hizbullah for initiating the crisis.