More on the Attack on the UNRWA Compound

At first, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barack told Ban Ki Moon that the shelling was a “grave mistake.” But now, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says the targeting was deliberate. From the AFP:

“The Israeli forces were attacked from there and their response was severe,” Olmert’s office quoted him as telling Ban.

“We do not want such incidents to take place and I am sorry for it but I don’t know if you know, but Hamas fired from the UNRWA site.

“This is a sad incident and I apologise for it.”

UNRWA officials are not buying it.

Christopher Gunness, a spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which is charged with helping Palestinian refugees, said that the Israelis had been provided with the GPS coordinates of all United Nations facilities in Gaza. He said that in the strike on the United Nations compound two buildings had been set ablaze and that there were five fully laden fuel vehicles at the site.

He rejected the Israeli claim that militants had fired from in or near the compound as “entirely baseless.”

“With every false allegation, the credibility of those accusing us is incrementally diminished,” he said. He said that Israel had used three shells of white phosphorous at the compound, according to people at the site, citing the fact that fires caused by the shells had burned all day as evidence that the chemical was used. White phosphorous creates smoke on a battlefield and can burn like a kind of napalm. There was no immediate response from Israel.

The way I see it, even if the Israeli claims are true and Hamas militants did force their way into the UN compound (these UN workers, after all, cannot exactly fight back), how does that justify putting the lives of civilians at the UN headquarters at risk? Hamas, in this situation, are essentially holding the UN hostage. And Israel has apparently decided that it is worth risking the lives of the hostages just to get at the hostage takers.

This is just terrible all around.

Get occasional updates from UN Dispatch

* indicates required

Our free service for global affairs professionals

  • Want to learn more?