Last updated: 6 July, 2011

UN report slams Israel over Nakba Day bloodshed

A UN report into the bloodshed along the Israeli-Lebanon border on Nakba Day, has slammed the Israeli army for using unnecessary force when firing on protesters, a newspaper said on Wednesday.

The report was released by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon this week and passed on to the 15 members of the Security Council, with a copy also passed on to Israel’s left-leaning Haaretz newspaper.

The study focuses on the events of May 15 when thousands of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon marched on the Israeli border in a show of mass mourning over the creation of the Jewish state, known in Arabic as the Nakba, or “catastrophe.”

As the protesters tried to scale the fence, Israeli troops opened fire, killing seven and injuring 111, the report said.

Another four people were killed and scores injured along the Syrian front line 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 Lebanese-Israeli confrontation.

The report found 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,” it said of the resolution which ended the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.

In his concluding remarks, Ban urges the Israeli military to act only with the level of force appropriate to the threat facing its troops.

“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,” he writes.

The paper said Israel was furious with the UN’s special coordinator for Lebanon, Michael Williams, who reportedly wrote the report, and had cut all ties with him, cancelling a visit he was supposed to make in the coming weeks.

Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for Israel’s foreign ministry, refused to comment on the allegations in the report, although he did allude to remarks made by the UN coordinator following Nakba Day, which reportedly placed the blame for the entire confrontation on Israel.

“He made remarks following the events (of May 15) which did not help calm the situation,” Palmor said, without elaborating.

Williams’s office in Beirut had no immediate comment on the report, although in the wake of the complaint Lebanon filed a complaint with the UN Security Council over the attack, urging the organisation to “pressure Israel to end its aggressive and provocative policies.”

Although the lion’s share of criticism was reserved for the Israel army, the report also noted it was the Palestinian demonstrators who started the confrontation by throwing stones and firebombs at the troops.

It acknowledged that Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah militia group, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction, was involved in organising the rallies, Haaretz said.