U.N. Rebukes Israel Over Gaza Massacre
A United Nations inquiry into attacks by Israeli forces on UN property during the Gaza conflict four months ago has heavily criticised Israel’s army.
It found Israel to blame in six out of nine incidents when death and injuries were caused to people sheltering at UN property and UN buildings were damaged.
In one case, Palestinian militants were found to have fired at a UN warehouse.
The UN recommends further investigation into possible war crimes. Israel has branded the report “highly unbalanced”.
The investigation rejects Israel’s claim that militants were firing from the Fakhura school when at least 40 people outside the school were killed in shellfire.
The board of inquiry also criticises Israel’s use of white phosphorous shells which caused the incineration of UN’s main food warehouse in Gaza – something the UN says showed “reckless disregard” for civilian safety.
The Israeli foreign ministry said UN investigators had ignored evidence given by Israel and had sided with the Palestinian Hamas movement.
“The spirit of the report and its language are tendentious and entirely unbalanced and ignore the facts as they were presented to the commission,” it said in a statement.
“The commission prefers the positions of Hamas, a murderous terror organization, and by doing so misleads the world public.” >>>
The UN report, commissioned by Ban Ki-Moon, the UN secretary-general, said the Israeli military intentionally fired at UN facilities and civilians hiding in them during the war and used disproportionate force.
The report’s summary accused the Israeli army of “varying degrees of negligence or recklessness with regard to United Nations premises and to the safety of UN staff and other civilians within those premises, with consequent deaths, injuries and extensive physical damage and loss of property.”
Ban said at a news conference on Tuesday that the aim of the report, which is not legally binding, was to establish “a clear record of the facts” surrounding incidents involving UN premises and personnel.
A total of 53 installations used by the United Nations Relief and Works agency (UNRWA) were damaged or destroyed during Israel’s Gaza campaign, including 37 schools – six of which were being used as emergency shelters – six health centres, and two warehouses, the UN agency said.
Al Jazeera’s Kristen Saloomey in New York said the UN secretary-general was still determining the UN’s course of action over the report’s 11 recommendations, although the report says the UN will seek reparations for damages and will meet the Israeli government.
Israel’s army concluded its own report into the three week war on Gaza in late April, finding that Israel followed international law and that while errors occurred they were “unvoidable”.
The report found that in seven out of the nine incidents involving UN premises or operations that it investigated, “the death, injuries and damage involved were caused by military actions … by the IDF [Israeli army]”.
The investigation included one of the most notorious incidents in the war, when up to 40 people are believed to have died at a UN school in Jabaliya after Israeli mortar shells struck the area.
The UN initially said the shells had hit the school but later retracted the claim, while Israel initially said its forces were responding to firing from within the school, but also later reportedly withdrew the statement, although the UN report noted the claim still appeared on the Israeli foreign ministry’s website as of Tuesday.
The report also recommended that because there had been “many incidents” during the war involving civilian victims, an impartial inquiry should be mandated “to investigate allegations of violations of international law in Gaza and southern Israel by the IDF [Israeli army] and by Hamas and other Palestinian militants”.
Israel’s 22-day war on Gaza left more than 1,400 Palestinians dead, including around 400 children, Gaza health officials said, along with 13 Israelis. >>>
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday said a damning UN report on Israel’s conduct in its recent offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip was not legally binding.
The Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported Tuesday morning that the probe accuses the Israel Defense Forces of deliberately firing at UN institutions as well as using disproportional force and causing unnecessary harm to civilians.
Israel later rejected the report Tuesday as being “tendentious” and “patently biased.” >>>