Israel admits killing Spanish UNIFIL peacekeeper

Corporal Francisco Javier Soria Toledo
Corporal Francisco Javier Soria Toledo

Israeli security sources admitted on Tuesday that the death of a Spanish U.N. peacekeeper in January was caused by Israeli fire.

“The Spanish soldier was indeed killed by Israel Defense Forces artillery, following a Hezbollah attack on IDF (army) forces that killed two soldiers,” a source said on condition of anonymity.

A military statement in response to a query by Agence France-Presse described the shelling of the U.N. post near Lebanon’s border with Israel as “an unfortunate event.”

“There was never any intention of harming United Nations forces,” it said. “The IDF is operating in order to prevent similar incidents in the future.”

The statement said that a “thorough” military investigation had been carried out and the results passed on to the Spanish army.

Spain and Israel had agreed on a joint probe into the January 28 death of 36-year-old Corporal Francisco Javier Soria Toledo.

The 10,000-strong United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) includes some 600 Spanish soldiers and troops from 35 other nations.

Israel occupied parts of Lebanon for 22 years until 2000 and the two countries are still technically at war.

This video surfaced on the internet in early February  to show the incident near the Lebanese border where a Spanish UN peacekeeper was killed in the crossfire between Israel Defense Forces and Hezbollah.

Israel fought a bloody war with Lebanon’s Hezbollah in 2006 that killed more than 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and some 160 Israelis, most of them soldiers.

Spain’s El Pais newspaper on Sunday published what it said were extracts from the confidential Spanish military report, citing soldiers who said they appeared to have been deliberately targeted.

The paper, however, also quoted a U.N. report which said that a few minutes before the shelling began Israel had warned the U.N. peacekeepers not to venture outside their post, without giving an explanation.

Over the following two hours nearly 120 artillery shells, 90 mortar grenades and five projectiles were fired in the area, El Pais quoted the report as saying.