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Hezbollah Rockets Hit UN Observation Post

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By SAM F. GHATTAS
The Associated Press
Friday, July 21, 2006; 6:05 AM

JERUSALEM -- A U.N.-run observation post just inside Israel was struck during fighting between Israel and Hezbollah militants on Friday. The Israeli army blamed Hezbollah rockets but a U.N. officer said it was an artillery shell fired by the Israeli Defense Force.

A U.N. officer, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, said an artillery shell fired by Israel made "a direct hit on the U.N. position overlooking Zarit." The post is part of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon.

But an IDF spokesman said the position was hit by rockets fired by Hezbollah that fell short of their targets in northern Israel.

The U.N. official said the facility was severely damaged but none of the Ghanian troops inside the bomb shelters inside were injured.

In 1996, during an Israeli air and artillery offensive against Lebanon, artillery blasted a U.N. base at Qana in southern Lebanon, killing more than 100 Lebanese civilians who had taken refuge with the peacekeepers.

The mission of UNIFIL, which has nearly 2,000 military personnel and more than 300 civilians, is to patrol the border line, known as the Blue Line, drawn by the United Nations after Israel withdrew its troops from south Lebanon in 2000, ending an 18-year occupation.

Since its deployment in 1978 after an Israeli invasion, Palestinian guerrillas and later Lebanon's Hezbollah have ignored it. Israel invaded southern Lebanon and swept through to Beirut to occupy it, slicing unhindered through the peacekeepers' lines.

The force is made up of more than 1,990 troops from China, France, Ghana, Ireland, India, Italy, Poland and Ukraine.

___

Sam F. Ghattas reported for this story from Beirut, Lebanon, and Matt Moore reported from Jerusalem.


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© 2006 The Associated Press

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