A Knife-Thrower at the Carnival 2
The July 26 UNIFIL press release is out. And it's worth reading extensively.
Yesterday evening at 19:30, at least one aerial bomb impacted directly on the building inside the patrol base of the Observer Group Lebanon (OGL) in the area of Khiyam in the eastern sector. The three-story building and the position were entirely destroyed. At the time, there were 4 unarmed military observers in the position from different nationalities. A UNIFIL rescue team was immediately dispatched to the location, and is still trying to clear the rubble. They retrieved the bodies of three observers, and are searching for the fourth, who is also feared dead. The Secretary General of the United Nations gave a statement last night in Rome concerning this incident.
Prior to this incident, very intensive aerial bombardment and shelling from the Israeli side was reported in the area of Khiyam, and there were 14 prior incidents of firing close to this position by aerial bombs and artillery shells. At 18:30, four artillery shells fired from the Israeli side directly impacted inside the position, causing extensive damage on the building and the shelter. UNIFIL Force Commander was in repeated contact with Israeli Army officers throughout the afternoon, pressing the need to protect that particular UN position from firing.
Another UN position of the Ghanaian battalion in the area of Marwahin in the western sector was also directly hit by one mortar round from the Hezbollah side last night. The round did not explode, and there were no casualties or material damage. Another 5 incidents of firing close to UN positions from the Israeli side were reported yesterday. It was also reported that Hezbollah fired from the vicinity of four UN positions at Alma ash Shab, Tibnin, Brashit, and At Tiri. All UNIFIL positions remain occupied and maintained by the troops.
From the information given, this incident is somewhat different from previously reported close-firing incidents in that the "UNIFIL Force Commander was in repeated contact with Israeli Army officers throughout the afternoon, pressing the need to protect that particular UN position from firing." From the narrative we see:
|12:00 - 18:30||14 instances of close firing|
|18:30||four IDF artillery shells directly inside the position, causing extensive damage to the building and shelter. [By itself this would have been the most serious incident to date]|
|19:30||bomb destroys building in OGL|
|post 19:30||UNIFIL rescue team dispatched|
The one question unanswered by the UNIFIL press release is what the Israelis were firing at. There is no indication that the Hezbollah were firing from Kiyam in the press release. Alma ash Shab, Tibnin, Brashit, and At Tiri, but no Kiyam. On this circumstance hangs much of Kofi Annan's accusation, and one should keep an open mind on whether or not the UN post was targeted deliberately until that question is resolved. However, I'll leave the readers with some idea of Kiyams topography from Google map. Kiyam (33.3256 35.6106) is a town of about 16,400 people on a ridge overlooking a lot of battlefield. There's a reason why the OGL post is located there. Here's Kiyam looking due south, towards Israel. As can be seen from the image, it commands a view of the Israel's Hula Valley all the way to Sea of Galilee and beyond.
I have no pictures of the patrol base itself, but here's a closer look at Kiyam showing a large structure on the highest local point on the ridge, which may or may not be the OGL post, but it would certainly be a good place to put it, but the same reasons would apply to a Hezbollah position.
It is quite apart from the rest of the town, but as the photo below (not Kiyam) shows, Hezbollah sometimes locates its facilities very close to UNIFIL positions. (Hat tip for the picture, Israelly Cool) This has been described as "intentional" or proof of UN collusion. However that may be, simple topography will explain why the positions are located so close together. From time immemorial the high ground has always been valuable. If the IDF take Kiyam they'll probably put an observation post there too. It's a good place to observe the action -- or direct spot the fall of Katyusha fire into the Hula Valley.
Also, Little Green Footballs quotes retired Canadian Major General Lewis Mackenzie who was interviewed on CBC radio as saying he had received emails from "a few days ago ... What he was telling us was Hezbollah soldiers were all over his position and the IDF were targeting them. And that’s a favorite trick by people who don’t have representation in the UN. They use the UN as shields knowing that they can’t be punished for it." It's not clear whether this was in reference to Kiyam.