An Israeli airstrike hit a United Nations post in southern Lebanon late Tuesday, killing at least two of the agency’s observers, according to the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon.
The U.N. initially reported that four peacekeepers were dead, but later said there were two dead and two missing.
Lebanese security sources said the two missing observers are feared buried in the rubble of the building.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he was “deeply distressed” by the “apparently deliberate” strike.
“This coordinated artillery and aerial attack on a long-established and clearly marked U.N. post at Khiyam occurred despite personal assurances given to me by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that U.N. positions would be spared Israeli fire,” he said in a statement.
Daniel Ayalon, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, said that “UNIFIL obviously got caught in the middle” of a gunfight between Hezbollah guerillas and Israeli troops.
“We do not have yet confirmation what caused these deaths. It could be (Israel Defense Forces). It could be Hezbollah,” he said.
UNIFIL sent a rescue-and-medical team to the city of Khiyam, and the team was trying to clear rubble early Wednesday. Attacks in the vicinity continued as rescuers tried to reach those killed or injured, UNIFIL said.
UNIFIL said there had been at least 14 incidents of fire close to the post since Tuesday afternoon.