A new report by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon into the violence along the Israeli-Lebanon border on Nakba Day harshly criticizes the Israeli army for using unnecessary force in firing on protesters. The report was released this week to the 15 members of the Security Council, with a copy also passed on to Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper. The study focuses on the events of May 15 when thousands of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon marched on the Israeli border. As the protesters tried to scale the fence, Israeli troops opened fire, killing seven and injuring 111, the report finds. The report states that Israeli troops "used direct live fire against unarmed demonstrators" and urged the army to avoid doing so in situations where there was no immediate threat to life.
"Other than firing initial warning shots, the Israel Defence Forces did not use conventional crowd control methods or any other method than lethal weapons against the demonstrators," it says, describing the use of live ammunition as disproportionate. "The firing of live ammunition...against the demonstrators, which resulted in the loss of civilian life and a significant number of casualties, constituted a violation of resolution 1701 (2006) and was not commensurate to the threat to Israeli soldiers." Security Council Resolution 1701 ended the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.
"I call on the Israel Defence Forces to refrain from responding with live fire in such situations, except where clearly required in immediate self-defence," Ban wrote in his remarks on the report.
Although the harshest criticism was reserved for the Israel army, the report also noted it was the Palestinian demonstrators who started the confrontation by throwing stones and petrol bombs at the troops. It acknowledged that Lebanon's Hezbollah was involved in organizing the rallies.
Another four people were killed and scores injured along the Syrian frontline with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, but the report, which was based on the findings of an investigation by the UN peacekeeping force in south Lebanon (UNIFIL), focuses solely on the confrontation at the Lebanese border.
Ha'aretz reports that the Israeli government is furious with the UN's special coordinator for Lebanon, Michael Williams, who reportedly wrote the report, and has cut all ties with him, cancelling a visit he was supposed to make in the coming weeks. (Ha'aretz, Middle East Online, July 6)