New York Times Story on UN Position Hit by Israel Omits Crucial Context

A July 27 article in the New York Times about four UN officers killed in an outpost hit by Israeli fire (“U.N. Says It Protested to Israel for 6 Hours During Attack That Killed 4 Observers in Lebanon” by Warren Hoge), omitted crucial context about Hezbollah firing from or near UN positions. By contrast, the Associated Press reported that “U.N. officials said Hezbollah militants had been operating in the area of the post near the eastern end of the border with Israel, a routine tactic to prevent Israel from attacking them.”

The Times article cited UN assistant secretary general for peacekeeping operations Jane Holl Lute saying “no Hezbollah activity was reported in the area” at the time, and suggested that all the firing near UNIFIL positions in recent days was from Israel’s side:

Firing continued during the rescue operation despite repeated requests to the I.DF. for an abatement,” she [Ms. Lute] said, speaking of the Israeli Defense Forces.

She said that Unifil had reported 145 incidents of “close firings” in recent days with several patrol bases taking direct hits and sustaining damage to buildings, equipment and vehicles.

But according to a July 18 email from Major Paeta Hess-von Kruedener, one of the officers killed at the UN’s Khiam outpost on July 25, this was certainly not the case. In his report, published on CTV’s website, Kruedener asserted:

Team Sierra is currently observing both IDF/IAF and Hezbollah military clashes from our vantage point which has a commanding view of the IDF positions on the Golan mountains to our east and the IDF positions along the Blue Line to our south, as well as, most of the Hezbollah static positions in and around our patrol Base. It appears that the lion’s share of fighting between the IDF and Hezbollah has taken place in our area. On the night of 16 July, at 2125 hrs, a large firefight broke out between the Hezbollah and the IDF near a village called Majidyye and lasted for one hour and 40 minutes….

…we have on a daily basis had numerous occasions where our position has come under direct or indirect fire from both artillery and aerial bombing. The closest artillery has landed within 2 meters of our position and the closest 1000 lb aerial bomb has landed 100 meters from our patrol base. This has not been deliberate targeting, but has rather been due to tactical necessity.[emphasis added] 

And Retired Canadian Major General Lewis Mackenzie explained in an interview with CBC that Major Kruedener had sent emails indicating that Hezbollah soldiers were “all over his position.” He said:

We received emails from him a few days ago, and he was describing the fact that he was taking fire within, in one case, three meters of his position for tactical necessity, not being targeted. Now that’s veiled speech in the military. What he was telling us was Hezbollah soldiers were all over his position and the IDF were targeting them. And that’s a favorite trick by people who don’t have representation in the UN. They use the UN as shields knowing that they can’t be punished for it.

It is equally clear from UNIFIL press releases over the past week that there was firing near and around UN positions in recent days. According to the releases, Hezbollah opened fire on a UNIFIL convoy, and repeatedly shot from the area of UN positions. In fact, one unarmed UN observer was seriously wounded by Hezbollah fire. For example:

From July 20: “Hezbollah firing was also reported from the immediate vicinity of the UN positions in Naqoura and Maroun Al Ras areas at the time of the incidents (Israeli firing).”

From July 24: “One unarmed UN military observer, a member of the Observer Group Lebanon (OGL), was seriously wounded by small arms fire in the patrol base in the Marun Al Ras area yesterday afternoon. According to preliminary reports, the fire originated from the Hezbollah side during an exchange with the IDF.”

From July 25: “This morning, Hezbollah opened small arms fire at a UNIFIL convoy consisting of two armored personnel carriers (APC) on the road between Kunin and Bint Jubayl. There was some damage to the APCs, but no casualties, and the convoy was obliged to return to Kunin.”

From July 26: “Another UN position of the Ghanaian battalion in the area of Marwahin in the western sector was also directly hit by one mortar round from the Hezbollah side last night. The round did not explode, and there were no casualties or material damage. Another 5 incidents of firing close to UN positions from the Israeli side were reported yesterday. It was also reported that Hezbollah fired from the vicinity of four UN positions at Alma ash Shab, Tibnin, Brashit, and At Tiri.”

Why did the New York Times ignore this key information?

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