U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
NEW YORK – Fresh off a Monday meeting with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon told the UN Security Council that he would push forward with an investigation into the destruction and damage of UN-owned buildings during the recent Gaza operation, including incidents in which Hamas weapons were found in schools.
Debriefing the Security Council on Tuesday about his recent trip to Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian territories, Ban recounted seeing “mile after mile of wholesale destruction” in Gaza and during his visit to the UN refugee camp in Jabalya, one of the sites shelled during Operation Protective Edge.
“I look forward to a thorough investigation by the Israel Defense Forces of this and other incidents in which UN facilities sustained hits and many innocent people were killed,” he said. “I am planning to move forward with an independent board of inquiry to look into the most serious of those cases, as well as instances in which weaponry was found on UN premises.”
Repeating a line he told journalists last week, Ban said, “I fully understand the security threat to Israel from rockets above and tunnels below. At the same time, the scale of the destruction in Gaza has left deep questions about proportionality and the need for accountability.”
His spokesman Stéphane Dujarric told reporters at the daily briefing that the board of inquiry was a standard procedure led by the secretariat, implemented whenever there was damage to UN property or premises. Dujarric did not yet have a time frame or a short list of who would be on the board, but said that Ban was “clear on his intention to go forward with it in short order.”
Responding to a question about what being on the board would entail, Dujarric said, “I assume it will involve some travel.”
He added that “these are routine things; some get more attention than others.
There was one after the last Gaza operation, and there have been others.”
Asked about Ban’s meeting with Ya’alon and whether the defense minister had indicated if Israel would cooperate, Dujarric said, “We would expect any member state, whether it’s Israel or the Palestinian Authority, to cooperate fully.”
In his meeting with Ya’alon, Ban confirmed his intention to establish a board of inquiry, and welcomed Israel’s support in bringing reconstruction materials into Gaza.
Dujarric did not have any comment on assertions by Hamas that materials now coming into Gaza under a UN mechanism would be used to rebuild the destroyed tunnels into Israel.
“The monitoring mechanism is used to make sure that materials are used to construct homes,” he said.
Ya’alon had said in his own readout of the meeting that Israel would not cooperate with the UN if the tunnels were rebuilt.
“We hope that Israel and the [Palestinian] government of national consensus continue to cooperate fully with the UN in implementation of the mechanism to deliver much-needed resources...into Gaza,” Dujarric said.
In his statement to the Security Council, Ban said he hoped the recent Cairo conference, during which $5.4 billion was raised for Gaza, would be “the last Gaza reconstruction conference.”
“There is no hope for longterm stability in Gaza without addressing the underlying causes of the conflict: an end to the occupation that has [ground] on for nearly half a century, a full lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip, and effectively addressing Israel’s legitimate security concerns,” he said.
Israel’s Deputy Ambassador David Roet pointed out in his own statement that “Israel does not occupy Gaza.”
As for the board of inquiry, Roet reiterated to the council the Israeli position that the targeted UNRWA schools had been “turned into rocket storehouses, where terrorists fired rockets from just steps away.”
PLO Ambassador Dr. Riyad Mansour, in his address, paid tribute to the 11 Palestinian UNRWA staffers who were killed during Protective Edge, and called the operation a “criminal war.”