IDF: Army didn't fire on UN truck driver

Army spokesperson tells 'Post' investigation found IDF not responsible for death of aid worker in Gaza.

gaza aid trucks kerem shalom 248 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
gaza aid trucks kerem shalom 248 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
The IDF was not responsible for the death of a Palestinian aid worker contracted to the UN and the wounding of two others on Thursday, the IDF Spokesman said Saturday. "An IDF investigation has found that it was not the army who fired on a UN truck at the Erez crossing," the IDF Spokesman's Office said. The IDF is not sure who fired on the truck, and is still investigating. "The army further wishes to point out that the Palestinian wounded were evacuated by the Red Cross to the Israeli border, where they were taken by Israeli medical personnel for treatment at Ashkelon's Barzilai Hospital," the IDF told The Jerusalem Post. The incident occurred Thursday afternoon at the Erez crossing into northern Gaza, the main entrance used by aid agencies to funnel badly needed food and medical supplies into the Strip. The version of events that claimed the IDF had attacked the aid convoy was widely disseminated in the global media, and it was only on Friday afternoon that the IDF posited a different theory. On Friday, the Post reported that contrary to foreign press reports, it was not certain that an IDF tank shell hit the aid truck, and that in all probability, the aid workers were hit by Hamas gunfire. The foreign press reports were based on UN sources, who later admitted to the Post that they were not sure in which direction the truck was headed when it was hit, and could also not say with certainty that tank shells were responsible. Foreign press reports said the dead Palestinian and two others were hit by tank shells. A MDA medic at the scene told the Post that soldiers in the field said Hamas snipers targeted the aid workers. A Post probe revealed that the two wounded Palestinians were being treated at Barzilai for gunshot wounds. Reacting to the IDF's assertion that it did not fire on the UN convoy last Thursday, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said the UN "was careful to source its information from eyewitnesses on the ground." Gunness added that the UN was keen to "clear the fog of war" and get to the bottom of the incident. "We've already experienced in the past few days the IDF wobbling on versions of events, especially surrounding the incident at the UNRWA school [in Jabalya, in which at least 30 people were killed]." Gunness was referring to an IDF video released after the attack which showed a Hamas mortar crew firing from near the school. The video was taken in late 2007 and was not directly related to this round of fighting in Gaza. "On the one hand we have IDF spokespeople accusing UNRWA of allowing militants into its facilities, while at the same time an IDF general is telling diplomats that the army had got it wrong," Gunness said, referring to a meeting at the Defense Ministry Friday at which the army told UN officials it "deeply regretted" the latest attacks against UN workers. "The more Israeli authorities send mixed messages and the more they wobble on their versions, the more they lose their credibility. It seems they are tying themselves into a knot. The fog of war needs to be cleared. The Jabalya school incident needs to be investigated and in other cases we need to make the facts known," Gunness added. The targeting of UNRWA workers last week led the agency to suspend its activities regarding the collection and redistribution of humanitarian aid in Gaza. In a statement issued Friday, the UN said it would resume its Gaza operations. "In a high-level meeting at the Israeli Ministry of Defense Headquarters in Tel Aviv, the UN was informed that the incidents which led to a temporary suspension of UN staff movements are deeply regretted and do not reflect official government policy. The UN received credible assurances that the security of UN personnel, installations and humanitarian operations would be fully respected, including undertakings of improved liaison and more effective internal coordination within the IDF. "On this basis, UN staff movements suspended yesterday will resume as soon as possible. The UN will keep the safety and security of its staff under constant review," the UN statement said. For more of Amir's articles and posts, visit his personal blog Forecast Highs