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Security Council, Annan condemn Hizbollah attack on UN peacekeepers in Lebanon

Security Council, Annan condemn Hizbollah attack on UN peacekeepers in Lebanon

The United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, and members of the UN Security Council today strongly condemned an attack by Hizbollah elements on unarmed UN military observers operating in south Lebanon.

"The Secretary-General reminds all of the parties of their responsibility for the security and freedom of movement of UN peacekeepers," a spokesman for Mr. Annan said in a statement. "He reiterates that any escalation of the tensions along the Blue Line could have serious consequences for Peace and Security in the region."

The Security Council was briefed on the situation by the Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, Hédi Annabi. Following a closed-door meeting, Council President Sergey V. Lavrov of the Russian Federation, said in a press statement that the members were "gravely concerned at - and protest - the attack today on unarmed UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon."

He recalled that in its last resolution on the situation in the country, adopted in January, the Council had urged the parties to respect the safety of UN peacekeepers. "Members today again strongly urge that the integrity, safety and freedom of movement of UN peacekeepers in the area be fully respected by all parties," he stressed.

The incident took place when a group of four UN military observers was attacked by Hizbollah militants near the Shabaa Farms area. The observer patrol was travelling in clearly marked UN vehicles when armed Hizbollah forced their vehicle to stop. The car windows were broken and the UN observers dragged out of their car and assaulted with rifle butts.

A separate four-man patrol from the UN Mission in Lebanon – known as UNIFIL – saw the incident and went to help the observers. During a scuffle which followed, the Hizbollah elements seized the UN peacekeepers’ weapons. One of the UN officers radioed headquarters which then immediately called Lebanese authorities to bring the situation under control. Within a few minutes of making this contact, UNIFIL was informed that Hizbollah had left the scene.

Three of the military observers were injured and evacuated to hospital in northern Israel. All the officers are reported to be in stable condition.

At a press conference in southern Lebanon today, the UNIFIL Force Commander called for an investigation of the incident at the highest level.

The UN has since received profound apology from Hizbollah along with assurances that this will never happen again. The Lebanese Government has also expressed its full support for the work of the UN peacekeepers.