Image: United Nations peacekeepers
Lefteris Pitarakis  /  AP
United Nations peacekeepers on an armoured personnel carrier lead a convoy of cars outside the U.N headquarters on the outskirts of the southern border town of Naqoura, Lebanon, on Friday.
updated 7/28/2006 1:33:22 PM ET 2006-07-28T17:33:22

The United Nations has decided to remove 50 unarmed observers from their posts along the Israeli-Lebanese border, moving them in with the peacekeeping force in the area, a spokesman said Friday.

The decision came after one of the posts of the observer force, known as UNTSO, was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike earlier this week, killing four.

"These are unarmed people and this is for their protection," said Milos Struger, a spokesman for UNIFIL, the peacekeeping force whose 2,000 members have light weapons for self-defense.

UNTSO has about 50 observers in four posts along the border, two of which have already been abandoned — the one that was destroyed at Khiam and a second near the village of Maroun al-Ras, which was abandoned after one of the observers was seriously wounded by Hezbollah gunfire on July 23, said Milos Struger, spokesman for the UNIFIL peacekeepers.

Staff were being removed from the remaining two posts to be placed at UNIFIL posts along the border, Struger said. He would not say whether the move had been completed.

UNTSO — the U.N. Truce Supervision Organization — was established in 1948 to observe the cease-fire following the war that followed Israel's creation. UNIFIL — the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon — was created to confirm Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in in 1978. It has more than 30 observation posts and bases along the border, monitoring and reporting on violence in the region.

The two organizations generally work together now.

Rescue workers pulled out the bodies of three dead from the strike on the post in Khiam on Tuesday night. But attempts to pull out the fourth body still buried under the rubble the rubble have been suspended because heavy equipment cannot reach the site due to continued Israeli bombardment in the area, UNIFIL said in a statement.

On July 17, a civilian staff member for UNIFIL and his wife, both Nigerian, were killed in their home by airstrikes in the southern port city of Tyre, according to UNIFIL.

A separate statement from the Danish Army added that U.N. personnel, including the observers, are temporarily being gathered at the U.N. headquarters in Naqoura southern Lebanon.

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