A United Nations inquiry into incidents that occurred at UN facilities during last summer’s Operation Protective Edge confirmed Israel’s charges that Hamas used those facilities to store weapons and launch attacks against Israel.
The Jerusalem Post reported:
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon charged that Palestinian militants had stored weapons in three UN facilities during last summer’s Gaza war and that such action was “unacceptable.”
“I am dismayed that Palestinian militant groups would put United Nations schools at risk by using them to hide their arms,” Ban said on Monday as he released a summary of a Board of Inquiry probe into events that occurred in UN facilities in July and August.
“The three schools at which weaponry was found were empty at the time and were not being used as shelters,” Ban said. “However, the fact that they were used by those involved in the fighting to store their weaponry and, in two cases, probably to fire from is unacceptable.”
The NGO UN Watch summarized the key findings of the report:
Hamas and/or Islamic Jihad stored rockets in UNRWA schools. The board found, in the case of the UNRWA Jabalia Elementary “C” and Ayyobiya Boys School, referring to the discovery of weapons there on 22 July 2014, that “it was highly likely that a Palestinian armed group might have used the premises to hide weapons.”
Hamas and/or Islamic Jihad stored rockets in schools that were in active use by children. During the war, former PLO lawyer Diana Buttu famously said on Al Jazeera that “the rockets that were found in the schools in UNRWA were schools that are not being used by anybody—school is out, I’ll have you know.” However, in the UNRWA Gaza Beach Elementary Co-educational “B” School, on 16 July 2014, the UN Board of Inquiry notes that the school gate was unlocked during the period leading up to the incident “in order to allow children access to the schoolyard.” School was out, but UNRWA was inviting the children back in to play.
Hamas and/or Islamic Jihad fired rockets from UNRWA schools. In the Jabalia school listed above, the board found that “it was highly likely that an unidentified Palestinian armed group could have used the school premises to launch attacks on or around 14 July.” Similarly, concerning weaponry stored at the UNRWA Nuseirat Preparatory Co- educational “B” School, the UN inquiry found that “the premises could have been used for an unknown period of time by members of a Palestinian armed group” — and that “it was likely that such a group may have fired the mortar from within the premises of the school.”
A review of the released report shows that Israel has procedures in place to deal with mistakes and violations. In one case, the report noted that the IDF conceded that “there existed ‘grounds for a reasonable suspicion that the incident involved a deviation from IDF regulations’ and that the Military Advocate General (MAG) had ordered a criminal investigation into the incident.”
Upon review of the executive summary of the report, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasized this point:
The executive summary of the report clearly documents the exploitation by terrorist organizations of UN facilities in the Gaza Strip. Israel is committed to working jointly with the UN in order to improve the security of UN facilities in the Gaza Strip, with special emphasis on preventing such exploitation by terrorists. Moreover, Israel is prepared to extend its assistance to UNRWA, with the aim of preventing the recurrence of circumstances under which UN facilities are used to carry out terrorist activity, in blatant violation of international law, and in a manner that gravely endangers civilians, including UN staff.
All of the incidents attributed by the report to Israel have already been subject to thorough examinations, and criminal investigations have been launched where relevant. This serves as further evidence of Israel’s serious approach to this issue, its capacity and desire to carry out independent investigations and its commitment to the rule of law. Israel makes every effort to avoid harm to sensitive sites, in the face of terrorist groups who are committed not only to targeting Israeli civilians but also to using Palestinian civilians and UN facilities as shields for their terrorist activities.