Question of Palestine home || Permalink || About UNISPAL || Search

English (pdf) ||Arabic||Chinese||Franšais||Русский||Espa˝ol||



Follow UNISPAL Twitter RSS

UNITED
NATIONS
S

      Security Council
Distr.
GENERAL
S/1996/337
7 May 1996

Original: English

LETTER DATED 7 MAY 1996 FROM THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
ADDRESSED TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE SECURITY COUNCIL


I have the honour to transmit to members of the Security Council the report submitted to me by my Military Adviser, Major-General Franklin van Kappen, following his mission to Lebanon and Israel. My decision to send the mission was taken in the light of the tragic events that took place at Qana on 18 April 1996, in which more than 100 Lebanese civilians were killed in the headquarters of the Fijian battalion of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

Members of the Council will note that the mission sought to establish, to the extent possible, the facts surrounding those events. General van Kappen had extensive discussions with UNIFIL commanders, Lebanese and Israeli authorities, and eyewitnesses. As indicated in the report, while the possibility cannot be ruled out completely, the pattern of impacts in the Qana area makes it unlikely that the shelling of the United Nations compound was the result of technical and/or procedural errors. For their part, the Israel Defence Forces maintain that the incident was due to a sequence of operational mistakes and technical failures, compounded by chance.

I view with utmost gravity the shelling of the Fijian position, as I would hostilities directed against any United Nations peace-keeping position. But this incident is all the more serious because civilians, including women and children, had sought refuge in the United Nations compound at Qana.

I welcome the cease-fire agreement announced on 26 April 1996, and it is my earnest hope that the restoration of calm in the area will enhance the prospects for negotiations leading to a comprehensive peace settlement which would preclude further tragic events. In the meantime, I have instructed the Force Commander of UNIFIL, Major-General Stanislaw Wozniak, to enhance cooperation with the Government of Lebanon and the Lebanese Armed Forces in maintaining peace and stability in UNIFIL's area of operation. I have also given instructions for arrangements to be worked out with the Israeli authorities to see to it that United Nations positions in Lebanon are not fired upon in the future.

It remains of the greatest importance that the parties to this conflict should ensure that innocent civilians do not become victims of the hostilities.

In view of the seriousness of the events at Qana, I have decided to transmit the report to the Security Council.

(Signed) Boutros BOUTROS-GHALI




Annex
Report dated 1 May 1996 of the Secretary-General's Military
Adviser concerning the shelling of the United Nations
compound at Qana on 18 April 1996

Introduction

1. On 18 April 1996, shortly after 1400 hours local time, the headquarters compound of the Fijian battalion of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) came under fire by Israeli artillery. At the time, more than 800 Lebanese had sought refuge inside the compound, which is located in the village of Qana. An estimated 100 persons were killed and a larger number wounded. Four United Nations soldiers were wounded. There was extensive damage.

2. The same day, you directed that I travel to the area to investigate the incident and to identify steps that could be taken to prevent a recurrence.

3. I left New York on the evening of 18 April and arrived on 20 April at UNIFIL headquarters at Naqoura, where I was briefed by Major-General Stanislaw Wozniak, UNIFIL Force Commander, and his staff. I was accompanied by Lieutenant-Colonel Geoffrey Dodds of my staff and assisted in the field by two UNIFIL officers with expertise in artillery and ordnance.

4. My team and I visited the United Nations compound at Qana several times, met with the commanding officer of the Fijian battalion and interviewed eyewitnesses to the attack. These included members of the Fijian battalion, members of the Force Mobile Reserve, Lebanese army officers and others. A detailed survey of the area was carried out. In Beirut, I met with the Minister of Defence of Lebanon, Mr. Mohsen Dalloul, and with the commander of the Lebanese Army, General Emile Lahoud (both on 22 April).

5. I held three meetings with representatives of the Israel Defence Forces: first, with the Deputy Chief of General Staff, Major-General Matnan Vilnai (21 April), and later with the Chief of General Staff, Lieutenant-General Amnon Shahak (25 April), and with the commander of the Northern Command, Major-General Amiram Levine (25 April). In addition, I visited the Israeli artillery battalion that had carried out the shelling (21 April).

Israeli account of events

6. On 21 April, I met with Major-General Vilnai at Tel Aviv and visited the artillery battalion. On both occasions, the Director of Israeli artillery, Brigadier-General Dan Harel, was also present. He, I was told, had investigated the shelling incident. The Israeli officers gave the following account of the incident:

7. The Israeli officers stated that the Israeli forces were not aware at the time of the shelling that a large number of Lebanese civilians had taken refuge in the Qana compound. I did not pursue this question since I considered it irrelevant because the United Nations compound was not a legitimate target, whether or not civilians were in it.

8. The Israeli officers emphasized that it was not Israeli policy to target civilians or the United Nations. On the contrary, the Israeli forces had made every effort to avoid the loss of innocent lives. The incident at Qana was therefore all the more deeply regretted.

Events prior to the shelling

9. My team and I questioned a number of witnesses on the activities of Hezbollah fighters in Qana prior to the incident. The following was found:

Survey of impact area

10. The technical survey of the impacts of the Israeli shells yielded the following information:

11. Several witnesses reported that during the shelling there had been a perceptible shift in the weight of fire from an area south-west of the compound (the mortar site) to the compound itself.

12. Several witnesses stated that they saw an RPV over the Qana area before, during and after the shelling. Two helicopters were seen 2 kilometres south-east of the United Nations compound during the shelling and one was observed close to the compound after the shelling had finished. The presence of one helicopter and an RPV was documented on a video tape, which covers the latter part of the shelling. It was taken by a member of the Force Mobile Reserve from a position overlooking the United Nations compound at Qana from a distance of about 1.5 kilometres. The RPV on the tape was of a type with a real-time data link capability.

Findings

13. The following are my findings:

While the possibility cannot be ruled out completely, it is unlikely that the shelling of the United Nations compound was the result of gross technical and/or procedural errors.


Preventing a recurrence

14. On 19 April, General Levine informed General Wozniak of new precautions adopted by the Israeli forces with regard to firing at targets near United Nations positions. I recommend that these measures be reviewed and confirmed at the political level.

(Signed) Franklin VAN KAPPEN
Major-General, Military Adviser





Addendum dated 7 May 1996 to the report of the Secretary-General's
Military Adviser concerning the Qana shelling


1. In view of the findings outlined in my report of 1 May, Ambassador David Peleg, ChargÚ d'affaires of the Permanent Mission of Israel, was invited to Headquarters on 2 May. In the presence of Mr. Kofi Annan I asked him for additional comments on two questions: the absence of any impacts from the second battery in the target area given; and the presence of helicopters and an RPV in the Qana area at the time of the shelling. Mr. Peleg was shown the videotape mentioned in paragraph 12 of my report.

2. On 6 May, Ambassador Peleg visited Headquarters together with Brigadier-General Dan Harel, Director of artillery of the Israel Defence Forces, and other officials. General Harel related the findings of an Israeli investigation which, he said, had been completed only the day before. He explained that, in their eagerness to cooperate with the United Nations, the Israeli forces had given me information during my visit before their own investigation was completed. Some of this information had turned out to be wrong. General Harel provided the following additions and corrections:

3. It will be noted that the additional explanations provided by General Harel address the question why the Israeli forces fired at a target close to a United Nations compound. They do not address the first four of my findings. I also note that the Israeli forces have not yet provided details concerning the presence of helicopters in the Qana area, a question I first raised on 21 April. As I stated in my report, it is unlikely that gross technical and/or procedural errors led to the shelling of the United Nations compound. However, it cannot be ruled out completely.

(Signed) Franklin VAN KAPPEN
Major-General, Military Adviser

-----


Follow UNISPAL RSS Twitter