U.N. probe blames Israel for deaths during Gaza offensive

Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak disputed allegations that the government caused civilian deaths in Gaza.
The Israeli government is responsible for deaths and more than $10 million in damage to U.N. buildings during the recent military offensive in Gaza, a U.N. committee said in a report.

The committee, called the board of inquiry, recommended that the Israeli government repay the United Nations for damages to its buildings during the fight in Gaza and also take better precautions to ensure that U.N. staffers and other civilians are not killed. “The board found that the government of Israel is responsible for the deaths and injuries that occurred within the United Nations premises and the physical damage that was done to United Nations’ premises,” the report stated. “The board found that the United Nations Relief Works Agency sustained losses and damage to property with a total estimated repair and replacement cost of over $10.4 million.” Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak disputed the allegations in the U.N. report. “We reject the conclusions of this report. I think what is missing from the picture is the source of all this, namely 4,000 rockets and motor shells that hit on the heads of our civilian population for eight years before Israel went there,” Barak said.

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Israel has said that its military incursion into Gaza in December and January was aimed at Palestinian militants, primarily members of Hamas. In April, Israeli officials said the military had conducted its own investigation of the fighting and concluded that its forces did not break international law. U.N. Secretary-General Ban-Ki moon commented on the report Tuesday. “The government of Israel has informed me that it has reservations and objections to elements of the summary,” Moon said. “At the same time, I am pleased that the Israeli government has agreed to meet United Nations officials to address some of the board’s recommendations.” The United Nations said in a press release April 18 that at least 1,300 Palestinians died during the fighting, but the numbers of those killed vary in the hundreds. The Israel Defense Forces in March said that there were 1,166 names of Palestinians killed in the conflict. Of the total, the Israeli military stated, 709 of them were “identified as Hamas terror operatives, amongst them several from various other terror organizations.” The Palestinian Center for Human Rights published a study that put the total death toll from the operation at 1,417, including 926 civilians — of which 313 were children and 116 were women. It reports that the remainder of the casualties were 255 “non-combatant” police officers and 236 who took “an active part in hostilities.”