NEW YORK – The United Nations once again called for a cease-fire on Wednesday, condemning the attacks on two UNRWA facilities in a week and on a power plant that has left Gazans without electricity.
Deputy secretary-general Jan Eliasson said it is plain to see that Israel’s use of force has been disproportionate, and that the Palestinian casualties have been excessive.
“We are mentioning the issue of justice and accountability, and we are not at a stage where we can take that second step,” Eliasson said.
He said it was too early to talk about what steps the UN and the international community might take, particularly given that the reports on the recent attacks haven’t been finalized.
John Ging, the director of operations for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said the cement Hamas used to build tunnels was not cement provided by the UN, and that all UN supplies are accounted for.
“The whole question of tunnels and all that is beyond our scope, except to say that any supplies that have come into Gaza for UN use are fully accounted for when it comes to things like cement and so forth,” said Ging. “There’s a rigorous accounting mechanism to make sure that if supplies come in for UN projects, they are used exclusively for UN projects.”
Eliasson acknowledged that the IDF is taking steps to inform Gazans of forthcoming strikes, but he noted that by looking at the number of civilian casualties, it should be apparent that Israel’s return of force was disproportionate.
Both officials urged restraint by all parties involved, but were themselves restrained in assigning responsibility for the recent attacks, saying that investigations were pending. Eliasson emphasized that no country is exempt from living up to the Geneva Conventions.
“Sometimes you run out of words,” Eliasson said.
“They [the Gazans killed at the UNRWA facility Wednesday] were there under UN protection, under our protection.”
Eliasson and Ging solemnly recounted the devastation in Gaza over the past few weeks.
“They [Gazans] feel that the world has lost its humanity,” Ging said.
“What I think we should all remember today is to try to put the human being at the center,” Eliasson said, pulling out of his jacket a pocket copy of the UN Charter. “This is what it’s all about.”