Published on Friday, July 28, 2006 by the Toronto Star
Canadian's Wife Wants Answers
Says deadly bombing of UN observer post was `intentional.
by Phinjo Gombu
The wife of a Canadian soldier missing and presumed dead in an Israeli air strike on a United Nations observation post in southern Lebanon says she believes the attack was intentional.
Cynthia Hess-von Kruedener made the allegation yesterday when she spoke to reporters at Canadian Forces Base Kingston.
"Why were they firing on that base?" Hess-von Kruedener demanded to know.
"That wasn't the only day they were firing on that base. My information from (her husband) is weeks upon weeks they've been firing on them.
"In my opinion, those were precision-guided missiles, then that was intentional," she said.
Maj. Paeta Hess-von Kruedener, a father of two grown children, was one of four unarmed UN observers bombed by Israeli planes in Khiam, about 10 kilometres from where the Syrian, Lebanese and Israeli borders meet.
During the news conference, an emotional Hess-von Kruedener said she was still holding out hope for her husband's survival.
"I'm asking for a miracle and the world needs to pray for a miracle," she said.
"I'm hoping he's all right," added her son Jonah Rosson. "I think he's still hiding there waiting to come back."
The career officer had been in Lebanon for the past nine months and had three months remaining in his mission.
His wife's comments add fuel to the growing controversy over the bombing, which has included allegations from UN Secretary General Kofi Annan that the observers were deliberately targeted by Israel. It's an allegation that has been vigorously denied by Israeli officials who have called the incident "a tragic mistake."
At the heart of it lies information that has come out over the past few days that UN observers in Lebanon phoned the Israelis at least 10 times over a six-hour period pleading for the shelling of the position to stop.
When it became evident the shelling wasn't going to stop, the base commander called top UN officials in New York.
reland has filed an official protest over the incident as six of those specific phone warnings came from Lt.-Col. John Molloy, a senior Irish UN peacekeeper whose job was to liaise with the Israel Defence Forces.
The UN Security Council approved a weak statement yesterday expressing shock and distress at the bombing, but avoiding any condemnation.
All 15 council members agreed on the watered-down statement, the first by the Security Council since fighting began July 12 between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas.
The statement carries less weight than a resolution, and came after more than a day of negotiations and objections from the United States, which wanted to make sure Israel was not directly or indirectly blamed. According to UN officials, Hezbollah fighters had been operating in the area of the well-marked and well-known observation post, a routine tactic to prevent the Israelis from attacking them.
"We did repeatedly in recent days say (to Israel) that this was an exposed position, that Hezbollah militants were 500 metres away shielding themselves near UN workers and civilians," said UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland.
"That's why it is so inexplicable ..." Meanwhile, the New York City-based Committee to Protect Journalists yesterday demanded an investigation into reports that Israel is targeting Arab television crews in south Lebanon.
An Israel Defence Forces spokesman denied the allegation saying "we are targeting the roads because Hezbollah uses those roads; under no circumstances do we target civilians, including the media."
As UN, Israeli and Canadian investigations into the incident continues, Prime Minister Stephen Harper weighed in Wednesday when he said the attack was a tragedy but he didn't believe it was deliberate.
It's a sentiment repeated by retired Maj.-Gen. Lewis MacKenzie to a crowd of 8,000 supporters of Israel at a solidarity rally in Toronto two days ago.
Both have questioned the wisdom of the United Nations in leaving unarmed soldiers in the middle of an armed conflict. The UN has been in south Lebanon since 1978.
For Hess-von Kruedener, an email sent to CTV last week about his mission described the dangers he faced.
One of eight Canadians with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, Hess-von Kruedener shared the observation post with soldiers from Australia, China, Finland, Austria and Ireland.
They came under daily artillery and aerial fire, sometimes directly, other times indirectly, he said.
According to UN officials, there have been dozens of incidents involving firing near UN posts — including nine hits on their positions.
© 2006 The Toronto Star