Israel Rebukes Troops for 2015 Killing of Spanish UNIFIL Soldier

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UNIFIL forces on the Israel-Lebanon border, 2015.
UNIFIL forces on the Israel-Lebanon border, 2015.Credit: AP

Soldiers involved in the artillery fire that killed a UNIFIL soldier last year have been disciplined, with Israel paying the Spanish corporal’s family 200,000 euros ($220,000) in compensation, military sources told Haaretz Wednesday.

In the January 2015 incident, Israeli troops fired artillery, mortar and tank shells at a number of points in southern Lebanon. They were responding to a mortar barrage by Hezbollah that killed Maj. Yochai Kalangel and Staff Sgt. Dor Chaim Nini.

According to the inquiry by the Israel Defense Forces, the artillery force’s professionalism was low during the incident. One of its shells accidentally hit a UNIFIL observation post, killing the UN peacekeeper, Francisco Javier Soria Toledo.

This happened even though UNIFIL posts had been marked on IDF maps – their location was even available online.

The IDF Spokesman’s Office said the army regretted that a Spanish soldier had been harmed. “The gunfire was a response to shells fired by Hezbollah, killing Maj. Yochai Kalangel and Staff Sgt. Dori Haim Nini in January 2015,” the spokesman said.

“The response was within permissible safety ranges, and the strike resulted from the possible statistical deviation of artillery fire. Following the inquiry, disciplinary steps were taken and operational conclusions were reached.”

Last month the Spanish press first reported that Israel would pay Toledo’s family 200,000 euros in compensation.

UNIFIL also investigated the incident and presented its conclusions to the Israeli and Lebanese armies in April 2015.

It found that Hezbollah had fired six shells at an Israeli convoy five kilometers (3.1 miles) south of the blue line – the Israeli-Lebanese border after Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000. Four shells hit the Israeli vehicles, killing Kalangel and Nini, and wounding other soldiers, as well as civilians.

In response, Israeli forces fired artillery shells, mortar shells and five tank shells.

UNIFIL told Haaretz it had not been involved in any investigation in Israel, Spain or Lebanon, so it would not comment on the Israeli findings or compensation.

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