Israelis Kill Norwegian Peacekeeper in Lebanon
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israeli soldiers in southern Lebanon fired on two Norwegian peacekeepers after mistaking them for Arab guerrillas, killing one and seriously wounding the other.
An Israeli army statement said the soldiers sighted ″suspicious figures″ before dawn and fired at the U.N. troops with tank shells and mortar rounds. The Norwegians were on foot patrol near the village of Al Balat in Israel’s self-declared buffer zone.
″We have no idea why they opened fire,″ said Timur Goksel, spokesman for the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon. The U.N. peacekeepers were deployed in south Lebanon in 1978 as a buffer between Israel and guerrillas launching cross-border attacks.
The head of Israel’s northern command, Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Mordechai, expressed regret over the incident and appointed a top officer to investigate it, the army said.
A Norwegian military spokesmen identified the soldier killed as Pvt. Gorm Bjornar Hagen, 21, and the wounded trooper as Lt. Oiyvind Berg, 36.
Norway’s deputy foreign minister, Jan Egeland, said his Israeli counterpart, Yossi Beilin, had phoned ″to express strong regret that a Norwegian life had been lost.″
Egeland termed as ″incomprehensible″ Israeli claims that the soldiers had mistaken the peacekeepers for Arab guerrillas.
″The Norwegian patrol was in the United Nations area, it was on a normal patrol which the U.N. is supposed to do, and the Israelis were warned that the Norwegians were in the area after the situation intensified.
″This whole thing shows how wrong the Israeli occupation of south Lebanon is,″ Egeland said.
Separately, Lebanese security sources said an elderly woman was killed today when Israeli-allied militiamen fired mortar shells on south Lebanon. The sources said they did not know what instigated the morning shelling, which occurred around the U.N.-policed village of Braachit.
The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said gunners of Israel’s surrogate South Lebanon Army militia lobbed more than 20 rounds of 120 mm mortars on the outskirts of Braachit, killing Naimeh Shehab, 76.
Relations between Israeli troops and their surrogate South Lebanon Army militia and the U.N. peacekeepers have been strained over recent shooting incidents.
South Lebanon Army troops, believing they were under attack, opened fire Sunday at a U.N. position, the U.N. spokesman said. There were no casualties.
Earlier this month, Israel claimed U.N. peacekeeping forces denied aid to an Israeli tank crew that came under a fatal attack, but the U.N. said it was a communication problem.