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U.N. Says Israel Deliberately Targeted U.N. Compound

May 4, 1996

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ A preliminary report says Israel apparently fired knowingly on a southern Lebanon U.N. compound after pro-Iranian guerrillas sought refuge in the area, diplomats said Friday. The shelling killed at least 91 refugees.

The U.N. report on the April 18 attack, prepared by Lt. Col. Frank von Kappen of the Netherlands, has not yet been completed. Israel has been asked to answer a series of questions.

Israel previously has said its artillery batteries were targeting Hezbollah gunners near the compound and that the compound was hit due to technical problems.

The report says that without contrary evidence from Israel, it would have to conclude the Israeli actions were deliberate, diplomats said.

Israel has been asked, for example, whether it had an aerial drone in the area at the time of the shooting. The drone would give the United Nations a stronger indication if the Israelis knew exactly what they were firing at.

Two or three guerrillas fled into the compound after a Hezbollah unit fired two Katyusha rockets and eight mortar rounds at Israeli targets.

``Israel did not shoot to deliberately kill 100 people in the compound,″ said Avner Tavori, a spokesman for the Israeli mission.

``We were targeting the Hezbollah Katyusha and mortar locations near the compound,″ Tavori said. ``It is obvious that something went wrong in the process.″

The report said that the wives and children of Hezbollah members apparently had sought safety inside the U.N. compound after Israeli began its air, artillery and sea offensive, diplomats said. The blitz was aimed at stopping the guerrillas from firing rockets into northern Israel.

Israel flew hundreds of bombing missions and fired more than 20,000 artillery shells in the 16-day offensive, which left at least 162 people dead.

The Iranian-backed Hezbollah group is fighting to push Israeli troops from the border enclave they have controlled in southern Lebanon since 1985.

Update hourly