And the life of another top UN official has been claimed before by radicals from a Middle Eastern country – though it may surprise some to learn the offenders were Israelis.

An Iraqi driver for the UN was killed and a foreign worker were injured in July when their vehicle was hit by gunfire and crashed into a bus south of Baghdad. It was the first attack on the UN in Iraq since Saddam Hussein was toppled.

“This is, of course, an isolated incident in terms of the UN being targeted,” Ahmad Fawzi, a UN spokesman, told Reuters shortly after the attack.

But the record shows the UN’s numerous agencies, and the people who staff them, have often been targets. The victims range from armed peacekeepers and, quite frequently, unarmed personnel engaged in humanitarian or administrative work.

Dangerous missions

The UN police force in Kosovo suffered its first fatal attack early in August. An officer was shot and killed in a sniper ambush while driving towards the flashpoint Serb-dominated town of Mitrovica.

Three weeks earlier, unknown attackers hurled hand grenades at the offices of the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) and United Nations development programme (UNDP) in the northern Pakistani town of Chilas. One person was injured in what was the seventh such attack in the district.

In May, a UN sector commander was injured in a machete attack when the peacekeeping mission office was stormed by enraged mobs the Democratic Republic of Congo. Civilians and paramilitaries also used machine guns and grenades in the ethnically volatile town of Bunia.

This year has been no exception. At least eight UN personnel were killed and dozens wounded along the border separating east and west Timor between 1999 and 2002. The attacks were blamed on Indonesian militias opposed to East Timorese independence and what they saw as outside interference favouring the separatists. Most of the UN personnel killed were refugee agency staff.

Zionist radicals killed UN envoy
Count Folke Bernadotte in1947

The UN suffered serious losses in Africa in the late 1990s. In December 1998, UNITA rebels shot down a UN aircraft, which had been delivering logistical equipment to its forces in Angola. Fourteen people were on board, including 10 UN staff and four crew members.

The following month, a second UN aircraft was shot down, with four UN personnel and four crew members on board.

Qana massacre

But the most egregious assault on a UN position in recent years remains the Israeli shelling of its base at Qana, south Lebanon.

Israeli artillery pounded the site in April 1996, though Lebanese refuges, sheltering in what they thought would be a safe place, bore the brunt of the attack. More than a hundred civilians were slaughtered. 

Israel insisted it was aiming at Hizb Allah fighters operating in the area, and that its gunners had hit the UN base by mistake.

A UN investigation later concluded the base had been deliberately targeted by Israeli gunners. It noted that the trajectory of Israeli artillery shells indicated the gunners knew what they were hitting. UN personnel had also filmed an Israeli reconnaisance drone in the area, which the Israel initially denied had been present until the video evidence surfaced.

And Tuesday’s death of the UN’s special representative to Iraq also has a tragic precedent – again, at Israeli hands.

Envoy assassinated

In September 1947, Zionist extremists ambushed a convoy carrying Count Folke Bernadotte of Sweden in Jewish-controlled west Jerusalem. The 54-year-old UN mediator for Palestine was killed by six bullets fired at point blank range. A French officer sitting next to Bernadotte was also killed.

The assassins were members of the Stern Gang, whose leaders included Yitzhak Shamir, a future prime minister of Israel.

Bernadotte had angered Jewish zealots by suggesting all Jerusalem should be handed to Jordan, since the area around the city was Arab. Bernadotte later withdrew his proposal after much Zionist criticism and restated the original UN formula of internationalising Jerusalem. But the UN envoy’s fate had already been decided by Shamir’s gunmen.

Israel's reluctance to prosecute the assassins earned Tel Aviv its first criticism from UN Security Council. And an official Swedish inquiry found Israel’s inquiry had been so lax that it cast doubt on its sincerity.

Israel reportedly paid the United Nations about $50,000 in 1950 as a form of compensation, without admitting responsibility for the murder.