UN chief sets up board to probe Gaza UN incidents
United Nations: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday announced the establishment of a board of inquiry to investigate deaths, injuries and damage to United Nations premises during this summer's Gaza war as well as the discovery of weapons in vacant U.N. schools.
U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said the five-member independent board will be chaired by Patrick Cammaert, a retired Dutch major general who previously served as Ban's military advisor.
More than 2,100 Palestinians were killed, mainly civilians, in the 50 days of fighting that began July 8, according to U.N. and Palestinian estimates. Seventy-two people were killed on the Israeli side.
Thousands of buildings were destroyed and at least 223 Gaza schools, either run by the U.N. refugee agency or the Hamas government, were hit in the fighting.
Weapons caches were found in several U.N. schools that weren't being used at the time.
Haq said “the secretary-general expects that the board will enjoy the full cooperation of all parties concerned.”
Israel's U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor told reporters “we are now assessing” the announcement.
The Palestinian U.N. Mission said it will comment on Tuesday.
When secretary-general Ban visited Gaza on Oct. 14, he said the destruction was “beyond description” and “much more serious” than what he witnessed in the Palestinian territory in 2009 in the aftermath of a previous Israel-Hamas war.
Ban said nothing more powerfully symbolized the “summer of suffering” than the Jabalia school where thousands of families had sought shelter from the fighting “under the U.N. flag.” Yet, he said, the school was shelled despite the U.N. having provided details to the Israeli military.
“Other U.N. facilities—sheltering other innocent civilians—shared a similar fate,” he said at the time. “The shelling of United Nations schools is absolutely unacceptable. These actions must be fully and independently investigated.”
Ban said the U.N. also informed the world when weapons were found in empty schools and stressed that “United Nations facilities must be inviolable.
The secretary-general repeated his call “for accountability.”
The other members of the board are Maria Vicien-Milburn, general counsel of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization; Lee O'Brien, a former Mideast expert in the U.N. Department of Political Affairs; Pierre Lemelin of Canada and K.C. Reddy of India.