The UN and the IDF

That UN Military Observer post at Khiyam has been in that same place for decades.  Its position was well known to the IDF.  It was well marked.  There had been continual liaison wth the IDF in the past and in the hours leading up to the fatal attack.

"Why would the IDF attack a UN observer post?  Who, in their right mind would think such a thing," says Gellerman, Israel’s UN ambassador."  An Irish Army captain assigned to UNDOF or UNIFIL answered the question succinctly in a television interview this morning. "We are the Secretary General’s eyes and ears," he said.

Pat Lang

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33 Responses to The UN and the IDF

  1. Fred says:

    Pat, seems like the Irish captain was succinct. IDF does not want the UN to see what is going on nearby or is distracting attention from what is going on elsewhere. Also avoids any chance of a ceasefire for a week or two.

  2. ptcruiser says:

    Did you have an opportunity to catch Wolf Blitzer’s thinly disguised sputterings of outrage at Kofi Annan’s remarks regarding the Israeli missle attack on the UN observation post? Blitzer said, among other things, that Kofi Annan had judged the Israelis guilty before there was even as investigation. PUHlease! I’m glad that it doesn’t cost me anything to watch CNN because it means that bullshit is still a bargain.
    Why would anyone with sense enough to come in out of the rain expect folks to believe that the Israelis did not know where that observation post was located and who was inside of it?

  3. jang says:

    Thank you Colonel Lang for this site where the military illiterate can read analysis reflecting your depth of experience and scholorship. In contrast, the MSM seems to be saying “The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea in a beautiful pea green boat..They took some honey and plenty of money wrapped up in a five pound note”

  4. b says:

    Jerusalem Post says precison missiles hit the post.

  5. canuck says:

    Amazing Israel will brook no possible interference from the UN to their ability to continue their attack in Lebanon and a possible pay back for the June UN report on the shelling of the family in Gaza
    Colonel Lang,
    Not sure, but is this the article at the New York Times you intended to link? “Irish Officer Warned Israel on Threat to U.N. Staff”

  6. zanzibar says:

    “UN peacekeepers in south Lebanon contacted Israeli troops 10 times before an Israeli bomb killed four of them, an initial UN report says.”
    Israel ignored UN post plea
    This will not play well. The problem with this “deliberate” attack on the UN post is that it will feed the meme of indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks by Israel. Now even the US “aligned” Arab regimes like Saudi and Jordan calling it “Israeli aggression”. And the US “liberated” Iraqi’s are also critical of the actions by Israel.

  7. david frost says:

    I would also advance the notion that a deliberate strike would also delay diplomatic efforts to resolve this crisis.
    Countries would be even further hesitant to commit troops to be deployed to the region as a peacekeeping force when they are going to sustain losses. This is hard to justify as this point, especially after the Iraq Quagmire.
    A peacekeeping force was part of the package on the table before USA would put it’s weight behind a cease-fire. It had a hard way to go before this incident, but post-un observer deaths, it’s almost impossible.
    China, a potential future superpower, seemed less than amused at the incident.

  8. canuck says:

    Who or what is going to stop Israel now that they have made so many impossible demands which delays any type of ceasefile from the UN? Koffi can no longer see and report what is happening at the border that would have an effect on world opinion.
    Many weeks of wars to come says Israeli General. Perhaps the headline more accurately should have been, “Gleeful Israeli General”

  9. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Had lunch today with a former UN officer who served at Khiyam aming other places as an observer.
    He observes that the post was site to look down the Hula Valley to the south and up the corridor leading north to the Bekaa Valley so that a flanking maneuver would be seen by the UN.
    Does anyone remember USS Liberty – 1967? pl

  10. jonst says:

    I remember it like it was yesterday.

  11. W. Patrick Lang says:

    As it happens, one of my college classmates was in the ship’s company and was killed. pl

  12. Larry Mitchell says:

    I was a little preoccupied with basic training to remember the USS Liberty attack when it actually happened, but I have read a good bit about it since. Here is a website: After reading about that, intentional bombing no longer sounds far fetched.

  13. The Harperinator strikes

    Our whiz bang PM, Steve Harper, pronounces the Israeli’s are off the hook again after killing another Canadian. In responding to the head of the UN’s statement that the Israeli defined accident looked deliberate Great Leader said: “I certainly doubt

  14. john in Los Angeles says:

    When I was at the United Nations in the early 1990s, Israel was carrying out a punitive raid against Hizbullah.
    They began shelling the UN compound then — to the left, to the right, fore and aft — then they obliterated the post. And dozens of Shia civilians hidden within.
    The animosity of the IDF to UNIFIL and etc. is very well known.

  15. LG says:

    I read this web log all the time, but have never posted here before.
    The remark about being the “eyes and ears of the Secretary General” made me think of LIBERTY, too. Read “Assault on the Liberty” by James M. Ennes, Jr. (one of LIBERTY’s officers).
    Years ago, I was having a hard time figuring out the ribbons of one of the recruiters at the reserve center that I was drilling at. He had a Bronze Star with “V”, PUC, and Combat Action ribbon but none of the standard Vietnam campaign ribbons that you would expect at that time for someone with those kinds of combat medals. I thought that maybe he just wanted to wear his highest order ribbons, but he also wore his Good Conduct, National Defense and Armed Forces Reserve ribbon. I just couldn’t figure it out, but didn’t want to pry and ask him about it. Then one day I had to go into his office for some reason or other and saw the framed LIBERTY ship’s patch on the wall along with a framed memorial to his dead shipmates. End of mystery.

  16. Duncan Kinder says:

    The United States bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade during the Kosovo war. Therefore, episodes of this sort do happen during wartime.
    Perhaps somebody with a great deal more technical sophistication than I have could distinguish these two episodes, but right now the random screw up / fog of war hypothesis looks viable to me.
    There is quite a lot of evidence of – let us say – remarkable and very violent Israeli action. Eliminating the UN post would not be much of a cover-up given all the other materials that are available.
    So I’m going to have to wait for a clearer, more detailed analysis – the sort of thing that’s not likely to be available for awhile – before I draw any conclusions.

  17. Francis Egan says:

    The simple answer to why they bomb civilians, try to sink US ships–remember the Liberty, shoot down airliners (Libyan 727 with Air France Crew). shoot journalits and assorted other mayhem is because they can. What amazes me is why any nation’s lightly armed soldiers would volunteer to observe the IDF at work.

  18. W. Patrick Lang says:

    US Air bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in ONE mission.
    US Air bombed the French embassies in Tripoli. Libya and Hanoi long ago. All of these involved ONE strike.
    This did not. pl

  19. jonst says:

    The Liberty Incident, along with my brother’s return from Vietnam, and hearing the story he told, led me to doubt the mainstream media. The conventional wisdom, if you will. This was a ‘first’ for me and a fairly profound first. From my vantage point anyway.
    I came to realize there was a ‘story’ out there that I was not hearing.
    I decided I wanted to find what else, if anything, I was not hearing. Boy did I learn. But for me it all started with the Vietnam War, as seen through my brother’s eyes. And the Liberty Incident.

  20. Spooky Pete says:

    Perhaps the Israeli’s are subtlely “saying” the UN should resize its forces in Lebanon UPWARDS (for safety in numbers) but not yet.

  21. Green Zone Cafe says:

    John in LA is right, the IDF and its proxies in the South Lebanese Army regularly attacked UNIFIL. I know that several Irish soldiers were killed.

  22. Question says:

    Forgive me if this sound uniformed, but wasn’t the Libery incident recently resolved as an accident? Didn’t M. Oren write a consensus history about that in his recent book? Is this still debated? Or is it just a matter of interpretation?

  23. W. Patrick Lang says:

    There are many who do not accept Oren’s explanation of the attack. pl

  24. Question says:

    This may never be decided then – on an true mutual level, because if it was not an accident then it would be too hard to admit that. But wouldn’t LBJ and McNamara be the ones to hold to account. If anyone knew the truth, it would be them. McNamara probably has a rather long list of things he feels guilty about. Thanks.

  25. W. Patrick Lang says:

    The deadly duo did not bomb Liberty. pl

  26. Question says:

    Yes, but didn’t McNamara pull back the rescue mission? Clearly he must know the truth and can clear up the contention = a bit. He should bear witness to what he knows and knew. He’s directly accountable – and his testimony would have legal meaning. When I first read about this in school, it just seemed so shocking that it puzzled why it was not resolved by people like McNamara. He is still making documentaries, talking about his past. Once he clears things up, then that will help to start to clarify things for vets. Thanks.

  27. W. Patrick Lang says:

    “for vets? Does that include you or do you have some other interest in this?
    In 1968 I read the trsnslated transcripts of the radio traffic between the Israeli strike leader and his base. He made it clear that this was the American Naval vessel that had been discussed in his pre-mission briefing and asked if he was still to attack the ship.
    The answer was, yes.
    Believe me, don’t believe me.. It is nothing to me. pl

  28. fasteddiez says:

    I picked up an interesting tidbit of info on the web today regarding a Major Hess-von Kruedener, late of Canada’s Princess Pat Light Rifles, KIA El Khiam two days ago.
    The CTV network received an e-mail from him dated july 18. He was the OIC of the UN det. Here is the link
    In the last paragraph he states
    “What I can tell you is this: we have on a daily basis had numerous occasions where our position has come under direct or indirect fire from both artillery and aerial bombing. The closest artillery has landed within 2 meters of our position and the closest 1000 lb aerial bomb has landed 100 meters from our patrol base. This has not been deliberate targeting, but has rather been due to tactical necessity.
    I thank you for the opportunity to provide you with some information from the front lines here in south Lebanon.”
    Assuming that his Pos had a wall for a perimeter with himself and his crew located in the four story building, it would seem that he was overrun by the Hizbz who wanted shelter from the Arty and airstrike storm.
    A picture shown on the web purporting to be the blast of the UN post shows a Daisy Cutter level explosion. Maybe it was a “target rich environment” in more than one sense (of the two birds with one stone variety). I will follow this story closely and hope some more emerges.

  29. ali says:

    What better way to win over the UN. Bracketing a well marked known UN observation post with shells for an hour or two while the unarmed observers beg for mercy and then delivering the coup de grace with a laser guided bomb. It’s the preliminary teasing of the pleading victims that really sets this apart.
    They then berate Annan for publicly doubting their innocence; the UN meekly turns the other cheek. Next week DC and London will demand a resolution from the UN for international force to rescue the IDF from being trapped into certain defeat in Lebanon.
    There is a word for this: chutzpah. This is a nation that has learned to expect generous rewards rather than punishment for acts like the sinking of the Liberty.

  30. hk says:

    Israelis NEVER succeeded in sinking the Liberty–despite sustained attacks from air and sea, the crew of the Liberty kept the ship afloat the entire time through heroic efforts.

  31. ali says:

    True. As I recall they did strafe the survivors rather diligently.

  32. Question says:

    Was just puzzled and confused by the debate and the back and forth. Did not mean to question you or your experience. Not at all – please forgive if that was the impression. It’s just hard to know what is right when reading about things in school and later on that are still contested. Thanks. Learn much from you blog. Hope there was no misunderstanding.

  33. pbrownlee says:

    Didn’t the late, great Leo Rosten (in “The Joys of Yiddish”) define chutzpah as unmitigated insolence, audacity, gall, effrontery?
    I seem to remember that “a chutzpahnik may be defined as the man who shouts ‘Help! Help!’ while he is beating you up”.

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