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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Serbs Step Up Attacks, Defy UN Air Strikes

SARAJEVO -- Bosnian Serb forces have increased attacks on United Nations peacekeepers since NATO warplanes destroyed a Serb tank in the weapons exclusion zone around Sarajevo, UN spokesman Tim Spicer said Friday.


U.S. A-10 Warthog tank-buster planes and British Jaguar bombers hit the T-55 tank Thursday after a series of Serb attacks on UN soldiers and vehicles.


The Bosnia Serb Army command, which earlier claimed to have complied with a UN order to removed banned heavy weapons from the zone, immediately threatened retaliation, "the time and place of which will be set in the future."


UN spokesman Tim Spicer said the Bosnia Serb Army followed up with more attacks after the air strike but described the overall military situation as stable.


"After the (air) attack, the direct targeting of the UN by the BSA has increased in the Gorazde pocket" east of Sarajevo, he told reporters. "Sector southwest and Bihac" in northwest Bosnia "have also seen some provocations."


The air strike was the first for several weeks and followed growing frustration over the Serb Army's blatant refusal to obey the ban on artillery, tanks and heavy mortars being trained on civilians.


This culminated in a heavy casualty toll at the weekend in the worst Serb shelling of mainly Moslem Sarajevo since February when the exclusion zone was imposed. Two people were killed in the attacks and a further 18 were wounded.


French General Andre Soubirou authorized the attack after the Serbs hit a French UN armored vehicle and seriously wounded the driver who was evacuated to Paris for treatment.


Soubirou said he was "very happy because the man survived," adding, "He is a very lucky man."


The UN gave the BSA two days' notice of possible air attack and 30 minutes warning of the warplanes' arrival "so there would be no human casualties."


The tank was thought to have been unmanned when it was blown apart.


Many analysts dismissed the UN's new toughness as "too little, too late."


They doubted whether it would have a lasting effect on the Bosnian Serbs who have rejected an international peace plan that would force them to disgorge war conquests.


Residents of Sarajevo, where 10,000 people have been killed in the course of 29 months of siege by the better-armed Serbs, praised the NATO air strikes but called for even sterner action.


Bosnian Vice President Ejup Ganic said the air strike was "good but not good enough ... the international community should not play tit-for-tat with the Serbs but hit them in such a way that they do not dare attack UN soldiers again."


City policeman Sefik Dautovic said, "It was about time the UN got serious and showed they are really with the people of Sarajevo, not just passive observers who are counting the shells."