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UN demand for IDF compensation in Gaza could reach $11m

Barak Ravid, Amos Harel & AP | Ha’aretz

6 May 2009

A United Nations demand for financial compensation for Israeli strikes on UN facilities in Gaza could come to $11 million, a government official in Jerusalem said Tuesday in response to a UN report that criticized Israel for the attacks. The incidents occurred during Operation Cast Lead in January.

The official said Israel would begin negotiations with the UN on this and other matters in the coming weeks.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon accused Israel Tuesday of lying about attacks on the facilities, including one said to have killed more than 40 people outside a school compound, and formally demanded compensation. He said a UN investigation found conclusively that Israel was responsible for attacks on several schools, a health clinic and the organization’s Gaza headquarters. Some of the weapons used in these attacks contained white phosphorous, he added.

The report, which was presented to the Security Council Tuesday, accuses Israel of intentionally firing on the UN institutions and using excessive force.

Israel denies that it intentionally struck the compounds. It also says it was forced to act against militants using these buildings and other civilian facilities for cover. Witnesses said at the time that militants fired from the area near the school that was hit.

“The spirit of the report and its language are tendentious and entirely unbalanced and ignore the facts as they were presented to the commission,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “The commission prefers the positions of Hamas, a murderous terror organization, and by doing so misleads the world public.”

The Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported that Israel had waged an intensive campaign to keep the report from coming out.

Ban commended Israel for its cooperation and said there would be no further reports on the matter. He also noted in a letter attached to the report, at the Foreign Ministry’s request, that the five-member panel that conducted the investigation cannot make legal findings or consider questions of legal liability, and pointed out that Israeli citizens in the south faced and continue to face indiscriminate rocket attacks by Hamas and other groups.

However, the report itself did not discuss rocket fire or attacks on Israeli civilians. Israeli officials said it also failed to address the intelligence information Israel gave the committee, which they said showed that Hamas was using UN facilities as a base for terror operations.

Israel Defense Forces officials, who called the report biased, said it was too early to tell what its long-term impact would be.