July 11, 1995
8:30 PM EDT
A force of 1,500 Bosnian Serb troops overran the enclave of Srebrenica Tuesday despite a NATO air attack intended to protect Dutch U.N. peacekeepers in the area.
NATO aircraft struck Bosnian Serb forces and hit two tanks, according to the United Nations.
But the attack did not stop the Serb advance and troops moved up around and into the town sending 27,000 refugees fleeing. The Bosnian Serbs have tanks and heavy artillery while the Bosnian Muslims in the town handed over their heavy weapons to the U.N. when the area became a so-called "safe haven.
Approximately 400 Dutch peacekeepers fled in advance of the Serbs. Several news agencies quoted the Dutch Defense Minister, Joris Voorhoeve, as saying the Serbs had threatned to kill the 30 Dutch soldiers they hold if there are more air strikes.
U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry said the fall of Srebrenica "raises the question as to whether the U.N. force will be able to continue to stay in Bosnia to perform a humanitarian mission."
U.N. spokesman Chris Gunnes told CNN that an "urgent review" is now going on after the "serious blow to our safe area policy."
In the meantime, Bosnian Serbs apparently were not waiting for the U.N. to respond. Bosnian Serb television broadcast a report claimed that the mainly Moslem town of Zepa, another U.N.-delcared safe haven was in imminent danger of falling to Serb forces.
The U.N. said it could not confirm the Bosnian Serb report that the town was in danger.
Bosnia's Prime Minister, Haris Silajdzic said the NATO air attack at Srebrenica was "too little, too late." He told reporters that if the U.N. and NATO had acted a day earlier they might have stopped the Bosnian Serb advance.
U.N. Spokesman Philip Arnold, speaking from Zagreb, Croatia said that after the Serbs ignored warnings to stop their advance on Dutch peacekeepers in the area "close air support" was requested and NATO air attacks began at 2:40 p.m. local time.
Unlike previous air strikes, which were aimed at fixed targets, these attacks were aimed at moving forces with the intention of destroying or disabling them, said Arnold. Adm. Leighton Smith, NATO commander, Southern Europe, said the strikes were directed by "forward commanders" in the area and that he knew that troops and tanks were probable targets. Later two tanks were reported hit.
Smith said "several sections" of aircraft from several nations took part.
Airplanes from Aviano Airbase in Italy and the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt in the Adriatic were used. Dutch F-16s were the first to drop bombs to protect the Dutch peacekeepers on the ground.
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