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BOSNEWS digest 428 -- 12/10/95

Bosnia-Herzegovina News Directory

From: Nermin Zukic <>



UN officials say at least 10 people were killed and many others wounded when a shell hit a refugee camp in Zivinice, south of Tuzla, AP reports this morning. BBC said a cluster bomb was fired at the camp, which houses refugees expelled when Serb forces overran the supposed "safe zone" of Srebrenica this summer. Today's victims included 2 girls, 2 boys, and a woman, BBC reports. There was no word of any UN or NATO response Sunday.


Fighting intensified across Bosnia following last Thursday's announcement of a planned cease-fire. Officials say the heavy fighting was expected, as each army attempts to improve its positions in case front lines are frozen. However, BBC says UN officials worry the battles will be hard to stop, and threaten the planned halt to fighting. Battles have raged around government-held Bosanska Krupa and Kljuc, and Serb-occupied Doboj.


Bosnian President Izetbegovic says he doesn't expect the cease-fire will begin Tuesday as scheduled, because conditions for the planned 2-month halt to fighting are unlikely to be met in time -- notably restoration of utilities to Sarajevo. Engineers working to repair damaged power lines to Sarajevo say they doubt full service can be restored by Monday night. UN officials say it took several days to remove mines blocking access to one of two main power lines before repair work could even begin. That line also powers water service to the city. In addition, Russia has still not turned on the natural-gas pipeline to Bosnia, despite a pledge to do so. It would take four days for proper pressure to build up once the gas is turned on. The Bosnian Serb Army, meanwhile, said the presence of Croatian troops in Bosnia threatens the cease-fire. The Serbs made no mention of at least 1,000 troops who recently crossed into Bosnia from Serbia.


Another 600 non-Serbs were forcibly driven from their homes in Banja Luka, the aid group Doctors Without Borders charged Saturday. Refugees arriving in Zenica said another 1,400 Muslims will likely be driven out shortly. The refugees were forced to walk several miles and cross a river to avoid going through a minefield, Reuters reports. Witnesses said two women drowned crossing the river. Most of those driven out were women, children, and the elderly. One woman said her husband was taken away by paramilitary troops from Serbia, and she did not know his fate. In Srebrenica, it's believed that thousands of Muslim men separated from their families by Serb soldiers were later murdered. The international community is prepared to let Serb nationalists "keep" Banja Luka, giving them a green light to continue their drive to ethnically purify the area.


At least one Serb warplane may have conducted a bombing attack on Bihac, another "safe area." A UN observer there reported seeing an unidentified aircraft, followed by the sound of an explosion. NATO, however, said its radar showed no planes in the area. A UN commander admitted a plane was in the area but claimed the explosions "were not connected with the aircraft in any way." Western officials admit that Serb nationalists have repeatedly flouted the supposed "no-fly zone" over Bosnia in recent weeks. On Wednesday, NATO warplanes bombed three Serb missile sites which allegedly had locked their radar onto the NATO aircraft. However, NATO took no direct action against Serb planes.


Sarajevans are doubtful that Serb extremists are ready to give up one of their key weapons of war: blocking food, medicine, electricity, heat, and water to civilian centers. "It will be like all the others,'' Bosiljka Juzbasic, 33, told Associated Press in her candlelit apartment. "They will give us a little water, a little electricity, the situation will improve for several months -- and then all hell will break loose again." "All the siege apparatus is still in place," one UN official told Reuters. "Even if the Serbs turn the utilities on they can always shut the water and gas valves and cut the electricity in the depth of winter. "Their siege guns are only 20 kilometers from the center of the city. Sarajevo still hangs by a thread." Lack of heat, light, and running water is causing severe hardship in the city, where many people live in high-rise apartment buildings.


Serb nationalists made significant advances in northwest Bosnia last week., UN officials say. The Bosnian Army retreated up to six miles south of Sanski Most, in the central part of the western Bosnian front, witnesses told Reuters last week. And, UN officials says Serb forces retook land around Bosanski Novi. The new front line was 1.2 miles from government-held Otoka on the Una River -- about halfway between Bosanska Krupa and Serb-occupied Bosanski Novi. Serbs were also pushing to recapture Kljuc, where Bosnian soldiers recently discovered mass graves believed to contain the bodies of hundreds of civilians slaughtered when Serbs overran the town in 1992. Several thousand Croatian soldiers crossed into Bosnia to bolster Bosnian army defenses. One battalion was positioned in the Konjoder district with its guns pointed toward Bosanska Krupa, a UN official told Reuters. The other battalion was on the eastern edge of the Bihac pocket with its guns facing Serb-held Bosanski Novi. Because of an international arms embargo, the Bosnian Army cannot acquire the heavy weapons it needs to match Serb nationalist forces, and now must rely on support from Croatia.


The Bosnian Army made some territorial gains near Serb-occupied Trnovo, south of Sarajevo this week, Reuters reports, in what appeared to be a push toward opening access to besieged Gorazde. While opening a road to Gorazde is part of the cease-fire agreement announced Thursday, Serbs made a mockery of similar pledges earlier this year to allow free movement of aid convoys. Serb nationalists keenly want to take Gorazde, which would finish their ethnic purification of all eastern Bosnia. Bosnian radio reported that three civilians were killed and three others wounded when Serbs fired an 82-mm shell into Gorazde -- which is supposedly under UN and NATO protection. No action was taken against Serbs forces for that attack. The Bosnian Army said it won 50 square kilometers around Ozren in central Bosnia Saturday, and reported gains near Doboj on Sunday.


A UN proposal to open a roadway from Sarajevo to Kiseljak last weekend failed when the UN sought to use a narrow, front-line street out of Sarajevo instead of reopening the main highway to the Adriatic coast, which passes through Serb-occupied Ilidza. The Bosnian government said the alternate was too dangerous and vulnerable to ambush and attack, but UN says the main route through Ilidza, closed throughout the war, is mined and booby-trapped, and would take weeks to reopen. Last Monday, Serb forces shot at a car carrying the Slovenian ambassador. The car had taken a wrong turn and strayed into Serb-occupied territory. More than two weeks after Serbs besieging Sarajevo pledged to open roads to the city, Reuters notes, "there is still no civilian traffic on any of the many highways to and from the Bosnian capital, for reasons illustrated by the Slovenian ambassador's experience."


While shelling of Sarajevo has at least temporarily ceased, Serb snipers continued shooting unarmed civilians in the city. Hospital officials said a 16-year-old girl and 56-year-old man were wounded by sniper fire Tuesday morning. The UN, meanwhile, sharply criticized the Bosnian government for allegedly firing four mortars toward Serb military positions from within the Sarajevo "exclusion zone." There was no mention made of Serb sniper attacks on civilians, since small weapons are allowed to ring Sarajevo under the NATO/UN ultimatum.


UN spokesman Alexander Ivanko accused Serb nationalists of a "flagrant violation of Geneva conventions," following an attack on a civilian target in Zenica with a rocket carrying a cluster-bomb warhead. Serb extremists also bombed civilians in Travnik. However, because neither city is a "UN-protected safe area," NATO and the UN took no action. Bosnian officials later reported missile, mortar, and howitzer attacks on civilian centers in Gradacac and Gracanica. And, the UN said three civilians were killed by Serb shelling of Konjic.


Dutch peacekeeping troops in Srebrenica did not notify UN headquarters of mass executions taking place there, and even handed wounded Bosnians over to Serb forces knowing that Serb soldiers were killing unarmed Muslim men, the Boston Globe reported last Sunday. After witnessing executions and seeing numerous corpses, UN soldiers nevertheless turned over 250 Bosnian men to the Serbs, the Globe reports. Col. Gerry Kremer, a UN surgeon, said Dutch deputy commander Maj. Robert Franken allowed the Serbs to inspect wounded Bosnians and take some away. Many Dutch soldiers disliked the Muslims they were supposedly protecting in the so-called safe zone. "I didn't trust the Muslims," Pvt. Ynse Schellens told reporters. "They smelled and they were dirty. I don't have bad feelings about the Serbs. They treated us right." The people of Srebrenica had been under siege for over three years, with Serbs blocking almost all food, medical aid, and utilities to the enclave. "We have to investigate the role of UN soldiers in Srebrenica," says Tadeusz Mazowiecki, who quit in protest as the UN's special human-rights investigator following the fall of the enclave. Said BBC's Martin Bell: "To save the lives of 300 soldiers the Dutch Government left 27,000 Bosnians alone, of which some 8,000 are dead now. This is defeat, and it is defeat without honour."


Elisabeth Rehn, a former defense minister of Finland, was named to replace Mazowiecki as the UN's human-rights investigator in former Yugoslavia. "For female victims it may be some kind of comfort and support that the new UN investigator is a woman." Rehn said. Investigating recently found mass graves is one priority, she said, as well as evidence of "continued ethnic cleansing."


The Russian government opposes Serb nationalist secession from Bosnia, saying it sets a dangerous precedent for ethnic groups such as the Chechens within the Russian republic, Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev told the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour on U.S. public television. Nevertheless, Russia has supported Serb extremists throughout the war; and their stated goal has always been an independent, ethnically pure Serb state on Bosnian land.

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