UN Impeded Investigation of
Hezbollah Kidnapping of Israeli Soldiers
By Leron Thumim
On October 7, 2000, Hezbollah
forces illegally crossed the Israeli border with Lebanon
through a UN patrolled
area and kidnapped three Israel
Defense Force soldiers, Adi Avitan, Binyamin Avraham,
and Omar Souad. UNIFIL
peacekeepers videotaped the incident; however, the United
Nations denied possessing any such videotape for almost nine
months. On July 6, 2001, The UN admitted, contrary to their
earlier denials, that they had possession of the tape as
of 18 hours after the incident occurred.
The Israeli government requested the tape to help investigate
the incident and hopefully recover the soldiers. However,
the United Nations refused to turn the tape over to Israel,
citing a desire to maintain a neutral role in the region.
Israeli Defense Minister Benjamin
Ben-Eliezer sent a strongly worded letter to UN Secretary
General Kofi Annan on July 8, 2001, calling the UNs
decision not to hand over the video "altogether puzzling
and incongruous." UN Under-Secretary-General
for Peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno responded by claiming
that since "South Lebanon is a war zone," giving
an unedited tape to Israel, would be considered by
one party as providing intelligence to another party and
would certainly put in danger the security of our people
in Lebanon." Israeli officials pointed
out that not only was Israel the victim in this kidnapping,
but that the UNIFIL officials ought to have prevented the
abduction in the first place, fulfilling their mandate as
peacekeepers it was their job to keep the area from
becoming a war zone.
The UN, caught in its contradictions, was starting to face
international criticism, especially in the United States.
On July 30, 2001, by a 411-4 vote, Congress adopted a resolution
calling on the UN to release the tape. On August 5, 2001,
the UN admitted that they were also in possession of a second
video pertaining to the investigation. With its credibility
shattered, the United entered damage control mode. The UN
publicly acknowledged that serious errors of judgement
were made, in particular, by those who failed to convey information
to the Israelis, which would have been helpful in an assessment
of the condition of the three abducted soldiers.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan also apologized directly
to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel
Finally, almost ten months after the kidnapping occurred,
the UN agreed to allow Israel to look at an unedited version
of the videotapes and to view items retrieved from the vehicles
that UNIFIL forces removed from the scene. Rather than giving
the tape directly to Israel, though, the UN decided place
sharp restrictions on when and how Israel could view the
tape, allowing Israeli officials to view the tape only three
times, at neutral sites in Geneva and Austria. The UN also
refused to turn over the aforementioned items, which were
bloodstained personal belongings of the IDF soldiers and
UN officials fervently denied the existence of a third tape,
a tape that many Israeli officials claim may have offered
the most direct and useful information.
Despite the lack of UN cooperation, the Israeli investigation
continued and on November 1, 2001, based on new intelligence,
Israeli army rabbi Israel Weiss pronounced the soldiers dead.
Their remains have yet to be recovered.
 DM Ben-Eliezer Responds to UNs
Refusal to Release Videotape. Arutz
Sheva, July 8, 2001.
 UN, Israel Clash Over Videotape.
July 8, 2001.
 UN Report Cites Misjudgments In
Handling Of Videotape. UN
Wire, August 5, 2001.