UN Accuses Israel of Excessive Force in Border Incident

Posted July 6th, 2011 at 10:15 pm (UTC-5)
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A new report by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says Israeli soldiers used excessive force in a May 15 incident against unarmed protesters in Lebanon.

Mr. Ban said Wednesday that seven protesters died and 111 were injured when Israeli forces fired live ammunition at about 1,000 people who had broken away from a peaceful gathering and approached the U.N.-drawn boundary between the two countries.

The secretary-general also accused the protesters of “a provocative and violent act” when they threw stones and firebombs and attempted to bring down the border fence.

But the report said Israel's actions were “not commensurate to the threat to Israeli soldiers.”

It said some 8,000 to 10,000 Lebanese demonstrators – mostly Palestinian refugees – participated in the protest marking the “nakba,” or “catastrophe” – the term Palestinians use to describe their defeat and displacement in the war the followed Israel's founding on May 15, 1948.

Israeli media reported that the government has severed ties with U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams in response to the findings.

In a separate development, the United States Wednesday repeated its opposition to any unilateral efforts by the Palestinians to request U.N. recognition for an independent state.

The U.S. State Department said Washington's goal is to get the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table. Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the Palestinian Authority's plan to ask the U.N. in September for an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem is not helpful.

Nuland made her remarks as Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat met Wednesday with U.S. officials in Washington.

Palestinian leaders have confirmed they will seek state recognition based on pre-1967 borders, as well as U.N. membership.

Israel has also denounced the Palestinian U.N. initiative, saying it would shatter efforts to reach a negotiated settlement to the Middle East conflict. But many Palestinians say the move will strengthen efforts to renew negotiations with Israel.

Talks between the two sides have been stalled since last September, partly due to Palestinian objections to Israeli settlement construction on land they want as part of a future state.

About 100 nations already have recognized a Palestinian state in one form or another, and a formal vote for recognition at the U.N. General Assembly would be a diplomatic victory. But only the U.N. Security Council has the legal power to add nations to the world body.