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Israel Blames Faulty Maps for Death of 4 U.N. Troops

September 15, 2006|From the Associated Press

JERUSALEM — Four United Nations observers killed in an Israeli airstrike in Lebanon in July were mistakenly targeted because of inaccurate military maps, Israel said in a report released Thursday.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said the report was given to diplomats from Canada, China, Finland and Austria, which each had an observer killed in the July 25 airstrike in the town of Khiam, near the border with Israel.

Regev said the deployment of fresh Israeli forces in the area, where intense Hezbollah activity was occurring, had created the need to duplicate maps and charts.

"In that process, unfortunately, the U.N. post was not accurately mapped," Regev said. "When our aircraft launched its ordnance, it believed it was targeting Hezbollah. This was a mistake. It shouldn't have happened."

He said the report showed that orders to Israeli forces at the time "unequivocally" prohibited targeting U.N. personnel and positions.

The United Nations has said that before the airstrike, U.N. observers in Lebanon phoned the Israeli military 10 times in six hours to ask it to stop shelling near their position.

The airstrike sparked international anger against Israel.

U.N. officials said the observation position was well-marked. A picture the world body released July 26 showed that the three-story building was painted white with the letters "U.N." emblazoned in large black letters on all sides, and a light blue U.N. flag hung from a flagpole that was about 50 feet high.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan had said the attack was "apparently deliberate."

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