Cynthia Hess-von Kruedener speaks to reporters on Thursday.
UN observer's wife calls Israel attack 'intentional'
Updated Fri. Jul. 28 2006 11:37 AM ET
CTV.ca News Staff
The wife of Maj. Paeta Hess-von Kruedener, missing and presumed dead after an Israeli attack on his UN observer post, says she believes the bombing was "intentional."
"The building was clearly marked, their vehicles were clearly marked, they were clearly marked as UN observers," Cynthia Hess-von Kruedener told a news conference in Kingston, Ont., Thursday.
"So why were (the Israelis) firing on that base? ... In my opinion, those were precision-guided missiles, so the attack was intentional."
She also said that Israel had attacked the area several times before, "for weeks upon weeks," according to her husband.
The Canadian government identified Hess-von Kruedener as missing and presumed dead following the Israeli bombardment on Tuesday.
The attack also killed three other UN observers at the post in the town of Khiam, near the eastern end of Lebanon's border with Israel.
The bodies of three soldiers from Austria, China and Finland have been found, but Hess-von Kruedener, a father of two grown children, remains missing.
During the news conference, an emotional Cynthia Hess-von Kruedener said she was still holding out hope for her husband's survival.
"I'm asking for a miracle and the world needs to pray for a miracle," she said.
"I'm hoping he's all right," added her son Jonah Rosson. "I think he's still hiding there waiting to come back."
Milos Strugar, senior advisor for the United Nations interim force in Lebanon, said it was "very difficult to keep hoping" that Maj. Hess-von Kruedener was still alive.
"The rescue operation is ongoing but we need heavy engineering equipment to bring to the position, also the shelling of the position and the surrounding area continues," Strugar told CTV's Canada AM Friday.
Strugar said he was waiting for an Israeli investigation on the bombing attack before he would comment further.
"At this stage we just have to wait for the results of the investigation on the circumstances of this tragic incident."
Cynthia Hess-von Kruedener's comments add fuel to the growing controversy over the bombing, which has included allegations from UN Secretary General Kofi Annan that the observers were deliberately targeted by Israel.
It's an allegation that has been vigorously denied by Israeli officials who insist on calling the incident "a tragic mistake."
At the heart of it lies information that has come out over the past few days that UN observers in Lebanon phoned the Israelis at least 10 times over a six-hour period pleading for the shelling of the position to stop.
When it became evident the shelling wasn't going to stop, the base commander called top UN officials in New York.
Ireland has filed an official protest over the incident as six of those specific phone warnings came from Lt.-Col. John Molloy, a senior Irish UN peacekeeper whose job was to liaise with the Israel Defence Forces.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has refused to condemn Israel's show of force, instead calling the incident a "terrible tragedy."
Harper, speaking after a funding announcement in eastern New Brunswick, says he wants to speak to the United Nations and the Israeli government about the shelling of the post.He also questioned why the observation was manned, given the Israeli offensive that had started in southern Lebanon two weeks earlier.
"We want to find out why this United Nations post was attacked and also why it remained manned during what is now, more or less, a war during obvious danger to these individuals," said Harper.
"I think this event is obviously a terrible tragedy," he said. "But that doesn't change the right of a country to defend itself against terrorists and violent attacks."
On Thursday, interim Liberal leader Bill Graham called Harper's comments "unacceptable," and said they endangered Canada's reputation as having an international peacekeeping role.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called Harper late Wednesday to express "deep regret" for the death of the Canadian soldier.
"Olmert offered his government's full co-operation to Canadians investigating the incident," Carolyn Olsen, a spokeswoman for Harper's office, said in a statement.
Olmert also called UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Wednesday, after the UN chief said the bombing was "apparently deliberate."
Soldier tells CTV.ca of fighting
Hess-von Kruedener was the lone Canadian Forces observer in southern Lebanon, and was assigned to report on ceasefire violations with the Observer Group Lebanon (OGL). His group, Team Sierra, was based 10 kilometres to the north of the Israel-Lebanon-Syria border.
On July 18, he provided CTV.ca with an update of his mission via e-mail. He said a great deal of fighting was taking place near his post.
"(O)ur vantage point which has a commanding view of the IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) 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."
He added that there had been numerous occasions when his post had come under fire, but wrote carefully to avoid revealing tactical information.
"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," he wrote.
"The closest artillery has landed within two meters of our position and the closest 1000 lb aerial bomb has landed 100 meters from our patrol base."
Hess-von Kruedener had completed nine months of his one-year tour of duty with the UN in Lebanon. He was an infantry officer with 20 years service, and had done four earlier operational tours (in Cyprus, twice in Bosnia, and Congo).
His former commanding officer, retired Col. Bill Sutherland, said Hess-von Kruedener put all of his energy into becoming the best soldier possible.
"The first thing that struck me was just how incredibly physically fit he was, which was obviously a testament to the enthusiasm, dedication and desire he had to be a soldier," Sutherland told CTV Newsnet by phone.
"Wolf loved ... loves his duty. He loves what he does and he's really good at it," Maj. Gen. Stuart Beare, using his friend's nickname, told reporters outside Hess-von Kruedener's home in Kingston, Ont.
With a report from CTV's Robert Fife and files from Canadian Press