UNRWA Worker Shot in
Last week, United Nations worker Iain Hook was killed by an IDF bullet, during a gun battle near the UNRWA compound in Jenin. The IDF claims that the UNRWA compound in Jenin had been used by Palestinians as cover from which to shoot at IDF soldiers. In addition to fire from within the UNRWA headquarters, the IDF identified at least seven cases in which direct fire was aimed toward IDF forces from an alley near the UNRWA headquarters. In two cases, terrorists opened fired while using civilians as human shields. In one of the cases, a terrorist opened fire while taking cover behind a woman holding an UNRWA flag. Many media outlets have failed to report the Israeli side of this story. HonestReporting encourages members to monitor your local media, and complain if the reporting is one-sided. Israel has long complained that the UN allows Palestinian incitement and extremism to go unchecked in the refugee camps. This week, Nicole Winfield of the Associated Press reports that the gate to the U.N. girls school in Jenin is plastered with posters hailing suicide bombers, and that the U.N. compound down the street has graffiti on its outer wall with Hamas threats to kill Jews. "Such wall art would be unthinkable on a U.N. building anywhere else in the world," Winfield writes.
The UN Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has been stationed between Israel and Lebanon since 1978, but violence continues. Despite UNIFILs presence, PLO terrorists operating from southern Lebanon routinely carried out terrorist operations in northern Israel until 1982 when Israel invaded Lebanon and eliminated the PLO. Subsequently, UNIFIL failed to interfere with or prevent Hezbollah from bombarding the residents of northern Israel with Katyusha rockets during Israels 20-year presence in the Southern Lebanon security zone. Israeli counterstrikes often caught UNIFIL in the middle and some UNIFIL personnel were killed or injured.
Even since Israel's full withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, UNIFIL has made no effort to thwart attacks against Israelis by Hezbollah terrorists. On October 7, 2000 three IDF soldiers were abducted by Hesbollah near a UNIFIL position, an event that was witnessed by UNIFIL personnel who may have even been involved. They were abducted while patroling the southern (Israeli) side of the Israeli-Lebanese border. UNIFIL's impartiality has been called into question since allegations have surfaced concerning the possible bribery of UNIFIL personnel facilitating the kidnapping and by the refusal of UN personnel to cooperate in the Israeli investigation of the kidnapping.
Several videotapes and numerous photographs were made at the time of the kidnapping event, and afterward when the vehicles used by Hezbollah were discovered abandoned. Israel demanded access to the tapes and photos but UNIFIL, and UN Headquarters in New York, denied their existence for over a year until forced to admit at least some of the materials were in UN possession. Only heavily edited versions were eventually turned over to Israel, indicating a cover-up was still operating in the matter, probably to protect UNIFIL personnel who were involved or who were negligent in their duties. An Indian member of UNIFIL gave an interview to an Israeli newspaper in which he said that four Indian members of UNIFIL helped Hezbollah carry out the abduction.
Israel continues to demand unedited tapes from the UN. Hezbollah issued a statement that they will treat the UN personnel as spies if the tape is turned over to Israel. The fate of the abducted soldiers (and others kidnapped by Hezbollah) remains unknown.
U.N. Admits Bungling Mideast Video
Saturday, Aug. 4, 2001
UNITED NATIONS - The United Nations on Friday admitted "mistakes made" in handling an Israeli request for a videotape made after the capture of three of its soldiers last year. It said the blunders resulted from "lapses in judgment and failures in communication, not from conspiracies."
The whole incident has proven extremely embarrassing for the United Nations, which had denied from regional to the highest levels of the world organization to the highest officials in Israel the very existence of the tape. It turns out there were at least two tapes in U.N. possession.
Undersecretary-General for Management Joseph Connor was told by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to investigate the bungling and, after handing Annan the report Thursday, was ordered to brief the Security Council and reporters Friday. During the course of the inquiry the existence of two additional videotapes was revealed. The third is a clip that was shown on Lebanon TV, and is not in U.N. possession.
"The investigation team is convinced on the basis of the evidence that it has seen and heard that the mistakes made followed from lapses in judgment and failures in communication, not from conspiracies or mala fides [bad faith]," the report said.
Annan's spokesman, Fred Eckhard, said: "It is clear that serious errors of judgment were made, in particular by those who failed to convey information to the Israelis which would have been helpful in an assessment of the condition of the three abducted soldiers. The secretary-general regrets this error."
Annan repeated his offer to show to the governments of Israel and Lebanon an edited version of the videotape made on Oct. 8, the day after the abduction.
"He now extends this offer to cover the videotape of Oct. 7, which the investigation has uncovered, and is also willing to show these two governments items recovered from the vehicles which may have a bearing on the condition of the soldiers," Eckhard said. "The report also reveals serious shortcomings in internal communications within the United Nations, and the way procedures for handling sensitive information are applied."
The second newly uncovered video recording comprised "a videotape clip that accompanied a Lebanese television bulletin apparently shown on July 15," the report said. "It shows images of the recovery operation filmed Oct. 8 and also purports to show still photographs of Hezbollah fighters during the abduction incident itself."
The United Nations does not have possession of that tape, and the investigation team "is unaware of any other videotape of the incidents."
"The secretary-general will now take administrative measures, including measures to tighten up these procedures, with a view to ensuring that such lapses in assessment and communication - within the U.N. chain of command and between the United Nations and member governments - do not recur." Eckhard said.
Ambassador Yehuda Lancry of Israel told reporters his nation welcomes the report.
He said it would accept Annan's invitation to view the unedited Oct. 7 videotape, the edited Oct. 8 videotape and the items recovered from the vehicles. He expects experts to arrive at U.N. headquarters to "scrutinize" the material "in some days."
"We are totally convinced of the good faith of the secretary-general," he said.
"I would like to express our satisfaction about Connor's report," Lancry said. "We consider that the work of this commission has been done in a serious and deep and vigorous way and that this commission was able to identify grave dysfunctions and failures inside the system and pointed out these dysfunctions and from the Israeli point of view we welcome the report."
The brouhaha began with the abandonment of Hezbollah positions as reported by U.N. military observers, Connor's report said. That was followed by a Palestinian demonstration and attempt to cross the border from Lebanon into Israel. Three people were killed and about 20 injured by Israeli gunfire.
That was followed by a bombardment at an Israeli border point, the Sheba Pond Road Gate, about two miles south of Shebaa village. Three Israeli soldiers had just arrived in a Jeep on a "regular routine inspection" shortly after 1:30 p.m. local time on a sunny Saturday, the report said. When the dust settled, the Jeep was on fire and the soldiers were gone. Two vehicles previously seen nearby also were missing.
The two vehicles, a white Nissan Pathfinder and a dark blue Range Rover, were found a few hours later about 100 yards apart abandoned, but their engines running, at the side of the road, near Kafar Hamam, about four miles from the attack, the report said. They were not U.N. vehicles.
A contingent from an Indian battalion of the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon was dispatched to recover the cars the following day and ordered to videotape the operation.
Imitation UNIFIL number plates, a U.N. flag, a false antenna and U.N. stickers were found inside the Pathfinder, some of them bloodied, along with three explosive devices, the report said.
Connor told reporters at the briefing it was not believed that the items were used because the sticky side of the stickers was unused and there was a lack of body odor on some apparel. He said in all, 53 items were taken from the two vehicles before they were towed off by UNIFIL. Seven items with bloodstains, including a car floor mat and a belt, were brought to U.N. headquarters in New York.
In his statement, Eckhard said, "The secretary-general wishes once more to express his indignation at the use of United Nations equipment and insignia in the abduction. He regards this as a very serious matter, which he continues to pursue with the government of Lebanon."
Still 35 mm images and digital photographs were taken of the vehicles and contents and an Indian soldier videotaped vehicles and contents.
"An unknown civilian cameraman also appeared later with a video camera and apparently his presence was not questioned by UNIFIL personnel," the report said. It was noted in attempting to explain the existence of the Oct. 7 tape, that an unidentified cameraman was present Oct. 8.
"Armed Hezbollah personnel stopped the convoy" towing the Nissan and Range Rover and "demanded that the vehicles be handed over.
After an hour's confrontation, they were surrendered, "under instruction from the [UNIFIL] commander," Maj. Gen. Seth Kofi Obeng "in order to defuse an armed confrontation and possible loss of life," the report said. "The handing over was videotaped by the Indian battalion. There is no mention of the recovery or the videotape in UNIFIL's daily situation report."
However, the Connor report said, "various peacekeepers wrote several reports on both aspects." The tape was brought to headquarters at Naqoura, Lebanon.
"Gen. Obeng spoke to the director of Asia and Middle East Division of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, [Joachim] Hutter, about the abduction of the Israeli soldiers, the United Nations items recovered and the surrender of the vehicles," the report said. "He also mentioned that the events were captured on videotape. The director [Hutter] does not recall mention of a videotape during this conversation."
Said the report, "There is no mention of the videotape in any written communication from UNIFIL to headquarters until July 9."
When Israel learned of the videotape, it requested a copy. Officials in the world organization, including Annan, denied there was any until last month. Israel said it wanted to see the tape to help determine the fate of the three soldiers.
The United Nations did not want to hand over an unedited recording because it could provide Israeli intelligence with a way of identifying the Hezbollah members who blocked the U.N. recovery operation, leaving it open to charges of complicity with Israel. There have been similar mutterings about the U.N. helping Hezbollah.
"The investigation team therefore concludes that the United Nations did not deliberately mislead the Israeli government," Connor's report said. "Internal U.N. communications were faulty and inadequate.
"The discovery of U.N. items in the vehicles used during the abduction is also a matter of serious concern," it said. "This is in contravention of international law and places the lives of U.N peacekeepers in Lebanon at risk."
[Copyright 2001 by United Press
Israel demands U.N. fork over Hezbollah kidnap video
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
JERUSALEM -- Members of Hezbollah on Tuesday threatened to treat the United Nations as spies if the agency turns over to Israel a videotape shot by a U.N. peacekeeper that could reveal information about the guerrillas involved in the October seizure of three Israeli soldiers.
Hoping to glean information regarding Hezbollah's abduction, Israel last week insisted it receive a full, uncensored copy of the video, taken in Lebanon a day after the kidnapping.
Since U.N. officials admitted the existence of the video July 6 -- after months of maintaining there was no such footage -- friction has been brewing between Israel and the international body over the conditions the officials are setting for Israel's viewing of the tape.
A U.N. official said last weekend both Israel and Lebanon could view the video, but only after it was altered to obscure the faces of presumed Hezbollah members. Explaining the move, the official said the international body cannot play a role in transferring intelligence information to either of the parties.
The official also rejected Israeli allegations of a cover-up, saying U.N. officials previously denied the existence of any video because they were unaware of its existence.
Israeli security officials charged Sunday that the United Nations is concerned that Hezbollah may attack the international body's peacekeeping forces should it provide Israel with an unedited version of the tape.
The families of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers, who for months have been trying to obtain any scrap of information about the fate of their sons, expressed anger with the United Nations for its delay in acknowledging the video.
Haim Avraham, father of kidnapped soldier Benny Avraham, said that in a meeting last week with the U.N. special envoy to the region, Terje Roed-Larsen, he accused the international body of withholding information about the captives for months.
"I told him that if I do not receive the video in its entirety, I will lodge a complaint against him and the U.N. secretary-general at The Hague international court, as accomplices to the abduction," Avraham was quoted as saying.
Both Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Benjamin BenEliezer have demanded that Israel receive an unaltered copy of the video.
Israel wants to determine whether there is any information or footage that would shed light on the abduction. Israeli officials also want to interview U.N. peacekeepers in Lebanon.
The Israeli daily Ha'aretz quoted some Israeli security sources as saying that the video does not portray anything new beyond what was already broadcast over an Arabic-language television station two days after the kidnapping.
Similarly, Jean Marie Guehenno, the U.N. undersecretary for peacekeeping, said the video -- shot Oct. 8 by a member of the Indian contingent of the peacekeepers, would not shed new light on the kidnapping of Staff Sgt. Benny Avraham, Staff Sgt. Omar Souad and Sgt. Adi Avitan.
Hezbollah abducted the trio Oct. 7 when Israeli soldiers were conducting a routine check of the northern border with Lebanon. Shortly after, Hezbollah kidnapped an Israeli businessman, Elhanan Tannenbaum, who also serves as a colonel in the reserves.
For months, contacts have been held via third party intermediaries regarding an exchange of the Israeli abductees for Arab prisoners held by Israel.
Portions of the video have already been broadcast on Israel's Channel Two Television. They show U.N. officials trying to tow two cars that were apparently used by the kidnappers and later abandoned.
A U.N. spokesman who viewed the video said inside the cars were bloodstains, explosive materials and equipment belonging to the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, as the peacekeepers are known.
According to reports, the cars had forged UNIFIL license plates.
In a related development, Israeli security officials and families of the three soldiers are questioning the authenticity of images broadcast last weekend that purportedly show two of the captives in a Beirut hospital 11 days after their abduction.
The faces of the two purported abductees are partly obscured, making identification difficult.
Israeli media quoted defense sources as saying it is unlikely such images could have been taken without Hezbollah's consent -- which in turn raises the question of why the fundamentalist Shi'ite group would want to release the images.
One theory is the pictures are part of Hezbollah's campaign of psychological warfare, aimed at putting pressure on Israel to make more concessions in any potential prisoner exchange.
When a group of United Nations workers signed a petition calling on the Israeli government to exercise more caution, BBC's
headline declared: "Israel 'threatens lives of UN workers'" http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/2541455.stm
In fact, the issue is far from cut-and-dry, as Danielle Haas of the San Francisco Chronicle (online at
- Hamas admitted that a UNRWA teacher killed by the IDF was a member of the terror group.
- Posters of suicide bombers can be found on the walls of UNRWA schools.
- U.S. congressmen are saying that U.S. funding for the UNRWA should be frozen if the terror continues.
Haas also notes the bigger context of Israel-UN tensions over the years,
including the UN's denial (and subsequent admission) of possessing a videotape of kidnapped IDF soldiers, the 'Zionism is Racism' resolution,
the Durban racism conference, and the hypocrisy of Syria having a seat on the Security Council.
Meanwhile, an Israeli government report maintains that the UNRWA provides an infrastructure for terrorist activities, with UNRWA facilities used as terrorist havens.
- The report tells of UNRWA ambulance driver Nidal Nazal, arrested five months ago, who admitted using his ambulance to transport ammunition and messages between terrorist groups.
- Ala Hassan, a Tanzim terrorist arrested nine months ago, said that ammunition was stored and target practice was held in the UNRWA school
in Nablus. Nahad Atalla also admitting using an UNRWA vehicle to transport terrorists on their way to attacks.
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