UN lashes out at Israeli bombings

UNITED NATIONS — A horrific July 30 attack by the Israel Defense Forces on the southern Lebanese village of Qana, combined with ongoing violence that had already claimed hundreds of lives, has prompted outrage at the highest levels of the UN’s leadership.

On July 30, the IDF bombed a residential building in Qana, killing at least 62 innocent civilians, 35 of them children. On July 26, Israel bombed a UN office in Lebanon, apparently on purpose, killing four UN observers.

Both state-based and organizational missions to the UN issued statements condemning the humanitarian crisis created by the Israeli bombing. The Red Cross’s Geneva Mission said in a statement that it “deplores” the lack of respect for civilians, and condemned Israel for its disrespect for international law.

The International Organization for Migration said that it would need upwards of $14 million to help tens of thousands of migrant workers — from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, the Philippines and elsewhere — who are stranded in the region.

Belarus’ UN Mission said that President Alexander Lukashenko had announced that his country would host children from families most affected in the region. Belarus “aims at providing comprehensive rehabilitation assistance to children suffering from violence.”

Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, refuted Israeli government arguments that said that it was not responsible for the July 30 deaths because the IDF had warned people in the area that there would be bombing.

”Many people,” Arbour said July 31 in Geneva, “are simply unable to leave southern Lebanon because they have no transport, because roads have been destroyed … or because they simply have nowhere else to go.” Arbour added this would hold true even after Israel’s announced 48-hour suspension of air raids. “Many thousands of civilians will still be in southern Lebanon after the suspension of air strikes is ended.”

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan convened an emergency UN Security Council session Sunday, July 30, urging a resolution of condemnation for the attacks on Qana and for an immediate cease-fire.

Annan said that he was “dismayed” that his earlier calls for a cease-fire were note heeded, and that he sent condolences to “the families of all the victims of violence — in Lebanon, in Israel and in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Gaza.”

The secretary general continued that both Hezbollah and Israel have committed “grave violations of international law.” Noting the disproportionate nature of the violence, however, Annan said, “No one disputes Israel’s right to defend itself. But, by its manner of doing so, it has caused … death and suffering on a wholly unacceptable scale.”

“Action is needed now,” Annan said, “before many more children, women and men become casualties of a conflict over which they have no control.”

Noting that a UN office in Lebanon had been attacked and set on fire, Annan said, in unusually blunt terms, that if the UNSC fails to act, its whole authority and standing are at stake.

Annan’s wishes were scuttled, mainly by the United States, and only a watered-down resolution was passed.

Jean-Marie Guehenno, undersecretary-general for peacekeeping operations, speaking to reporters about the July 26 bombing of the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) observation post, which killed four UN peacekeepers, said that the UN had warned the IDF repeatedly that it was endangering the lives of the observers, but to no avail.

He rebuffed claims that Hezbollah had been using the area as a “shield,” saying that there was no rocket fire that afternoon.