UN report says Hamas put Gazans at risk during summer conflict

A United Nations (UN) inquiry into the shelling of various UN facilities in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge has concluded that although Israel was responsible for the shelling, Hamas placed Gaza’s residents in danger by storing weapons in UN facilities and firing rockets from their premises.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced in November that a board of inquiry would examine the shelling of seven UN facilities, which resulted in the deaths of 44 Palestinians. He published a 27-page abstract conclusion yesterday, with the full 207-page report yet to be released. In a letter to the UN Security Council, Ban praised Israel for cooperating with the inquiry and for conducting its own investigations into the incidents covered plus others during last summer’s conflict. By contrast, Ban criticised the Palestinian Authority for failing to investigate possible Palestinian violations.

Nonetheless, Ban deplored the fatalities which were “caused as a result of Israeli actions,” adding “United Nations premises are inviolable and should be places of safety, particularly in a situation of armed conflict.”

However, Ban also heavily criticised Hamas, concluding that weapons were stored in three separate UN schools by terror groups. He said, “I am dismayed that Palestinian militant groups would put United Nations schools at risk by using them to hide their arms.” Although the facilities were empty at the time, Ban said “the fact that they were used by those involved in the fighting to store their weaponry and, in two cases, probably to fire from is unacceptable.”

A spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry said that although there are “some reservations” over “some of the report’s findings and conclusions,” it demonstrated that “when asked to assist in a professional and unbiased inquiry, Israel responds in a collaborative, open and forthcoming manner.” Israel has not cooperated with a UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) inquiry into Operation Protective Edge, as the commission’s mandate appeared to target Israel, while the UNHRC itself has a track record of hostility towards Israel.

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