U.N. personnel attacked after Lebanese object to border map

KFAR KILA, Lebanon - U.N. efforts to lay down borders between Lebanon and Israel hit bumpy terrain Friday, with protesters stoning U.N. inspection teams, officials raising objections and villagers threatening to evict peacekeepers.

Also Friday, Palestinians threw stones at Israeli troops on the border. Several protesters cut the fence and walked through, drawing warning shots from Israeli guards.

A 6-year-old Palestinian boy was slightly injured in the right hand Friday evening by Israeli gunfire at the border post across from Kfar Kila village. He was treated at a hospital, witnesses said, then taken home to Ein el-Hilweh refugee camp outside Sidon.

Palestinians waved national flags at the border point Friday, and at least four men cut through the border fence and walked across into Israeli territory. Israeli soldiers aimed their automatic rifles at the crowd, then into the air and fired at least 10 shots. The men retreated.

The day's troubles highlighted the continuing turbulence along the border, where there has been no real authority since last month's Israeli troop withdrawal from southern Lebanon.

The delicate task of establishing borders is key to the United Nations' process of verifying the withdrawal. U.N. peacekeepers will deploy along the border frontier only after the withdrawal has been verified. The Lebanese army has yet to move into the area.

Since the withdrawal, Lebanese and Palestinian civilians and Lebanese guerrillas have been converging on Kfar Kila to throw stones at an Israeli border post or take a picture and a peek at the Jewish state, with which Lebanon technically remains at war.

When a team from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, known as UNIFIL, reached the area in Israel across from Kfar Kila on a border verification mission, about 200 people on the Lebanese side began hurling stones over the fence.

Windows of two vehicles, including that of the deputy force commander, were shattered, according to a U.N. official at UNIFIL headquarters in the coastal border town of Naqoura.

The attack came a few hours after Lebanon raised objections to a new U.N. map of the border. The Lebanese objections resulted in a one-day postponement of verification efforts on the Lebanese side of the border, but the work was expected to resume Saturday.

UNIFIL officers, joined by Lebanese and Israeli teams on their respective sides of the frontier, covered part of the border Thursday, the first day of their verification mission.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has instructed peacekeepers to complete their verification of Israel's withdrawal as soon as possible.

Speaking Friday night at a dinner of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Washington, Annan said: ''I hope in the next day or so to be able to confirm the total withdrawal of Israel from Lebanese territory.''

Annan said he had been told that it was ''amazingly calm'' at the border.

''It is quiet on the border because people have shown leadership and have shown restraint,'' he said.

At U.N. headquarters in New York, officials who declined to be named told The Associated Press that Annan was planning a trip to the Middle East starting June 15. U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard, however, said the secretary-general won't decide on any visit until after the Israeli withdrawal is confirmed.

Another trouble spot for peacekeepers has been the Arab village of Ghajar, east of Kfar Kila and divided between Lebanon and Israel by the U.N.-drawn border. Its 1,700 residents, who have Israeli citizenship, have been rioting and burning tires to protest the division.

UNIFIL spokesman Timur Goksel has said the United Nations placed one border marker in Ghajar but that Israel had not yet agreed to divide the village.

At the Lebanese border area of Tabrikha southwest of Kfar Kila, 5,000 Lebanese demonstrated to demand that Israel return seven villages which, they say, were captured by the Jewish state in 1949 during the first Arab-Israeli war.


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