UN publishes report on 2014 Gaza conflict

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

On Monday the UN published a summary of its report regarding the inquiry into incidents that had taken place last summer during the conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon announced in November 2014 an inquiry would be made into ten incidents that took place in schools operated by UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees. Aside from investigating Israeli strikes on seven of these institutions, the report also examines three cases in which Hamas-owned weaponry was hidden in such schools. Other than the summary, the full 207-page inquiry report is not to be made public.

The inquiry was based on analysis of weaponry, medical reports, videos and still footage. In addition, the investigators relied on testimonies of UN employees and workers from other organizations in the Gaza strip. The investigation, led by former Dutch General Patrick Cammaert, is separate from the investigation led by the UN's Human Rights Council. Ban added on Monday that he assigned senior managers to consider the recommendations made by the investigators.

Along with the publication of the report, Ban Ki Moon stated in a letter that the harm done to UN institutions that gave shelter to civilians is a "matter of the utmost gravity". According to UNWRA, the full report indicates that information regarding the humanitarian use of these schools had been transmitted continually to Israel during the conflict.

Mr. Ban also wrote “I am dismayed that Palestinian militant groups would put United Nations schools at risk by using them to hide their arms.”

UNRWA told the Guardian that although it sent the Israeli military the schools' GPS coordinates, in seven incidents examined by the investigation team the attacks were attributed to Israel. Furthermore, UNRWA has affirmed, as is coinciding with the investigation's conclusions, that the organization did not transfer arms to Hamas and had developed a mechanism to handle the existence of arms in its facilities with the help of international experts.

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded regarding the issue, saying that "Israel makes every effort to avoid harm to sensitive sites" and that "All of the incidents attributed by the report to Israel have already been subject to thorough examinations, and criminal investigations have been launched where relevant."

Hamas and the Palestinian Authority did not immediately respond.