United Nations flag flies with Hezbollah banner at U.N. post (photo: Canadian Jewish News)

The United Nations post in Lebanon at the center of controversy over a deadly Israeli attack likely was being used as a “shield” by Hezbollah to fire rockets into the Jewish state, according to a former U.N. commander in Bosnia.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has accused Israel of deliberately targeting the post where four officials of the world body were killed in an Israeli airstrike on the southern Lebanese village of El Khiam Tuesday night.

But retired Maj.-Gen. Lewis MacKenzie points to an e-mail by one of the observers killed in the attack that backs Israel’s claim that it was targeting Hezbollah, reported the CanWest News Service of Canada.

The dead observer, Maj. Paeta Hess-von Kruedener, wrote an e-mail last week to the Canadian television network CTV that alluded to Hezbollah’s tactics.

“What I can tell you is this, we have on a daily basis had numerous occasions where our position has come under direct or indirect fire from both (Israeli) artillery and aerial bombing.

“The closest artillery has landed within 2 meters (sic) of our position and the closest 1000 lb aerial bomb has landed 100 meters (sic) from our patrol base. This has not been deliberate targeting, but rather due to tactical necessity.”

MacKenzie said Hess-von Kruedener was indicating Israeli strikes were aimed at Hezbollah targets near the post, the Canadian news service reported.

“What that means is, in plain English, ‘We’ve got Hezbollah fighters running around in our positions, taking our positions here and then using us for shields and then engaging the (Israeli Defence Forces),” he said.

McKenzie said this indicates Hezbollah purposely set itself up near the U.N. post, a tactic he observed in previous international missions. McKenzie was the first U.N. commander in Sarajevo during the Bosnia civil war, CanWest reported.

The U.N. has claimed there was no Hezbollah activity in the area of the strike.

From his U.N. post, however, Hess-von Kruedener wrote he had a view of the “Hezbollah static positions in and around our patrol Base.”

“It appears that the lion’s share of fighting between the IDF and Hezbollah has taken place in our area,” he wrote, noting later it was too dangerous to venture out on patrols.

A senior U.N. official asked by CanWest about the e-mail denied the world body had been caught in a contradiction.

“At the time, there had been no Hezbollah activity reported in the area,” he said. “So it was quite clear they were not going after other targets; that, for whatever reason, our position was being fired upon.

“Whether or not they thought they were going after something else, we don’t know. The fact was, we told them where we were. They knew where we were. The position was clearly marked, and they pounded the hell out of us.”

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