Israel blames “calculation error” for Spanish peacekeeper’s death

Joint investigation attributes incident on Lebanese border to weather conditions

UN peacekeepers inspect the bombed watchtower where Soria was killed.
UN peacekeepers inspect the bombed watchtower where Soria was killed.AZIZ TAHER (Reuters)

The death of a Spanish peacekeeper after an artillery strike in Lebanon in January was the result of “a calculation error,” according to an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) report.

The joint investigation into the death of Corporal Francisco Javier Soria Toledo on January 28 was carried out by Israeli Defense officials along with two experts from the Spanish army’s artillery campaign regiment from Burgos.

Israel recognized that the 155-millimeter shell that hit the tower where Soria was standing guard in the Lebanese village of Ghajar without any doubt came from its army, according to sources who have read the report.

Spanish soldiers who were called as witnesses told investigators they thought the attack was intentional

Soria, 36, was a member of Unifil, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon.

The Israeli contingent who carried out the offensive, which followed a Hezbollah attack on a convoy, was not equipped with observers to correct its targeting after the first battery of fire was launched. At the same time, Israeli Defense Forces argued that weather conditions did not play in their favor.

But despite knowing the precise coordinates where Unifil peacekeepers were deployed in Ghajar – the Lebanese village which is partially occupied by Israeli troops – Israel denied that the attack was deliberate.

Spanish soldiers who were called as witnesses had told the investigation that they thought the attack was intentional because, as Corporal Iván López Sánchez, who was stationed nearby, reportedly told military investigators, the IDF kept “correcting the trajectory from Majidiye to 4-28 post” where Soria was positioned.

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Another Spanish soldier, Sergeant Julio Javier García, backed Sánchez’s claims, saying the shells initially fell about 500 meters north of the UN post and then they “corrected the trajectory towards the position.”

After the Hezbollah attack on the Israeli convoy, in which two officials were killed, Israel said it had informed Unifil about its imminent offensive.

According to a UN report, Israel warned the UN peacekeepers at 11.40am not to venture out, without giving any explanation. Israeli forces fired 118 artillery shells, 90 mortar grenades and five projectiles in the area between 11.48am and 1.43pm.

But the joint Israeli-Spanish report – signed by the IDF chief of the International Military Cooperation Department, General Avi Peled, but not by any Spanish official – concludes that the IDF contingent did not know the geographical conditions when it opened fire on the Unifil post.

The 10,000-strong Unifil includes around 600 Spanish soldiers and troops from 35 other nations.

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