Middle East

Israel 'angry' at UN report on Lebanon deaths

Palestinian protesters gather on the border between Lebanon and Israel, 15 May 2011
Image caption Protesters staged the border protest on the anniversary of the foundation of the Israeli state

Israeli officials are reportedly boycotting a UN official in Lebanon after he wrote a report criticising Israel's response to a border incursion by Palestinian protesters in May.

Diplomatic sources in Israel have declined to comment on the reports.

It is understood that the unpublished UN document criticises the Israeli army for using disproportionate force by firing on protesters.

Seven protesters trying to cross from Lebanon were killed, the report says.

The incident occurred on the anniversary of what the Palestinians refer to as the Nakba or Catastrophe, the term used to describe the fighting after the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 which resulted in hundreds of thousands of Palestinians lost their homes.

Some protesters were also killed on Israel's border with Syria as they took part in a similar demonstration.

'Not commensurate'

The contents of the UN report, written by the organisation's senior representative in Lebanon, Michael Williams, have been circulating widely in the Middle East.

It was delivered several days ago to members of the UN Security Council, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, which also obtained a copy.

The report apparently acknowledges that the actions of the Palestinian protesters initiated the violence.

But the document is understood to criticise the Israeli army for being too quick to turn to the use of live ammunition against protesters who were not carrying firearms.

"Other than firing initial warning shots, the Israel Defense Forces did not use conventional crowd control methods or any other method than lethal weapons against the demonstrators," it says, according to quotes published by Haaretz.

It adds that the Israeli response "was not commensurate to the threat to Israeli soldiers".

Reports in the Israeli press say Israel's diplomats are now refusing to schedule meetings with Mr Williams, who they feel is readier to condemn its forces than the protesters who challenge them.

Although that is not officially admitted in Jerusalem, the BBC's Kevin Connolly says one diplomat acknowledges that "there is no hurry to restore contact with him".

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