A Canadian soldier's report from South Lebanon
Updated Wed. Jul. 26 2006 5:19 PM ET
After the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah, and the subsequent bombing campaign began against Lebanon, CTV.ca received an email from Maj. Paeta Hess-von Kruedener, a Canadian Forces soldier serving with the UN in South Lebanon.
"If you are interested in a Canadian perspective on the events of yesterday and what is happening here in the area I am serving in, I can provide some concise info for you about the current situation," he wrote.
On July 25, that base came under fire from Israeli artillery and was struck by a precision-guided aerial bomb. Four UN observers died. On July 26, the federal government said Hess-von Kruedener was missing and presumed dead.
Here is his full email, written July 18, with background on the mission and the current situation:
We have had a brief "tactical pause" in the action here, so I am taking this opportunity to provide you some information on the situation here in south Lebanon. At the outset, I will provide you with a brief background on who I am, What the Org and Mission is here and then answer some of the bank of questions you provided.
My name is Major Paeta Hess-von Kruedener, and I am an Infantry Officer with the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, of the Canadian Forces. I was sent to this Mission (United Nations Truce and Supervision Organization -UNTSO) last October 05, and am currently serving as an unarmed Military Observer. I have now been stationed here in south Lebanon for Approximately nine months.
I am currently writing to you from the UN Patrol Base Khiam, which is situated approximately 10 km from the nexus of the Israeli, Lebanese and Syrian Borders. I am serving with Observer Group Lebanon, or OGL, and I am on Team Sierra. The Patrol Base is named after the village it is situated in, El Khiam, which sits on one of four ridges which dominates both the Hasbani River valley, which then changes to the Houla Valley when it crosses the Lebanon-Israel border 10 km to our south.
The patrol base was initially an observation post and was built in 1972, but was later destroyed in 1976 during the fighting between the PLO and the South Lebanese Army (SLA). In 1978 it was rebuilt again and manned by elements of the Norwegian Battalion serving with UNIFIL. In 1980, Observer Group Lebanon (OGL) assumed responsibility for it. Historically, the area of the El Khiam and Hasbani valleys to the north and the Houla valley to the south have been the main axis for invasion in to Lebanon and Palestinian Territories.
(3) Our Team's normal operational activities are to plan, and execute daily vehicle and foot patrols of the Blue Line area within our area of responsibility. Unfortunately, with the current artillery and aerial bombing campaign being carried out by the IDF/IAF, it is not safe or prudent for us to conduct normal patrol activities. Currently, we are observing and reporting on all activities in our area of responsibility, with specific attention to activities along the Blue Line, which is clearly visible from our hilltop position.
(4) Team Sierra is currently observing both IDF/IAF and Hezbollah military clashes from our vantage point which has a commanding view of the IDF positions on the Golan mountains to our east and the IDF positions along the Blue Line to our south, as well as, most of the Hezbollah static positions in and around our patrol Base. It appears that the lion's share of fighting between the IDF and Hezbollah has taken place in our area. On the night of 16 July, at 2125 hrs, a large firefight broke out between the Hezbollah and the IDF near a village called Majidyye and lasted for one hour and 40 minutes.
(5) Based on the intensity and volatility of this current situation and the unpredictability of both sides (Hezbollah and Israel), and given the operational tempo of the Hezbollah and the IDF, we are not safe to venture out to conduct our normal patrol activities. We have now switched to Observation Post Duties and are observing any and all violations as they occur.
This is all the information of a non-tactical nature that I can provide you. I cannot give you any info on Hezbollah position, proximity or the amount of or types of sorties the IAF is currently flying. Suffice to say that the activity levels and operational tempo of both parties is currently very high and continuous, with short breaks or pauses. Please understand the nature of my job here is to be impartial and to report violations from both sides without bias. As an Unarmed Military Observer, this is my raison d'etre.
What I can tell you is this: we have on a daily basis had numerous occasions where our position has come under direct or indirect fire from both artillery and aerial bombing. The closest artillery has landed within 2 metres of our position and the closest 1000 lb aerial bomb has landed 100 metres from our patrol base. This has not been deliberate targeting, but has rather been due to tactical necessity.
I thank you for the opportunity to provide you with some information from the front lines here in south Lebanon.
Maj Hess-von Kruedener