Israel Apologizes for U.N. Shooting Incident
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israel today termed ″regretful″ an incident in which Israeli troops wounded two Norwegian peacekeepers in south Lebanon, but the defense minister said it is impossible to rule out similar mishaps.
The Norwegians were injured when an Israeli tank fired three artillery rounds above an armored personnel carrier patrolling the area near the south Lebanon village of Kaoukaba before dawn Tuesday, said Timur Goksel, a spokesman for the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon.
The wounded soldiers, Torgeir Stensrud and Lars Petter Andersen, suffered slight wounds in the arms and thighs and were treated at a U.N. hospital in Naquora, Lebanon.
Norway’s ambassador to Israel, Torleiv Anda, visited Israel’s Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem today to protest the shooting.
In a meeting with ministry deputy director general Yeshayahu Anug, Anda voiced his government’s ″deep sorrow,″ about the incident, said Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Bari Avner.
″It was explained to the ambassador that the circumstances of the regretful incident were being investigated,″ Avner said.″And the hope was expressed that such incidents would not occur again.″
Israeli military officials said the incident was still under investigation.
On Tuesday, the army released a statement saying the shooting occurred after Israeli troops ″noticed suspicious movement″ in the area, about six miles north of the Israeli border with Lebanon.
The military also said the U.N. troops were moving ″without the knowledge of our forces in the area.″
But U.N. peacekeeping commander Maj. Gen. Gustav Haggelund denied the charge today, saying that his force had warned Israel it was patrolling in the area, Israel radio reported.
Israel’s defense minister, Yitzhak Rabin, said earlier there was no way to prevent such attacks.
Rabin said it could happen again because of a ″certain tension″ in the six- to 10-mile ″security zone″ Israel has established in south Lebanon as a buffer against guerrilla attack.
″We are doing everything possible to prevent such incidents, but there’s no certainty they can be prevented completely,″ Rabin said.
It was the latest of several incidents in the zone just north of the border with Lebanon, which is patrolled by Israel’s forces and the South Lebanon Army, an Israeli-backed Christian militia. The zone and the area assigned to the 5,800-man U.N. peacekeeping force overlap in several areas.
Lt. Col. Ephraim Glick, head of Israel’s liaison unit with the U.N. force, blamed U.N. peacekeeping troops for failing to coordinate with Israeli units in the area.
Israel’s military command said its soldiers fired at the U.N. patrol when they ″noticed suspicious movement near the border,″ of the security zone.
″The force opened fire on the moving figures,″ the statement said, adding that the U.N. troops were moving ″without the knowledge of our forces in the area.″
The nine-nation U.N. force was sent to south Lebanon in 1978 when Israel withdrew after a brief invasion. Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 and stayed in the neighboring country for three years.
Included in UNIFIL are soldiers from Fiji, Finland, France, Ghana, Ireland, Italy, Nepal, Norway and Sweden.