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U.N. accuses Israel of lying about Gaza strikes

The U.N. chief on Tuesday accused Israel of lying about attacks on United Nations schools and other facilities during the Gaza military campaign  and formally demanded compensation.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The U.N. chief on Tuesday accused Israel of lying about attacks on United Nations schools and other facilities during the Gaza military campaign — including one reported to have killed more than 40 people — and formally demanded compensation.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said a U.N. investigation found conclusively that Israeli weaponry was "the indisputed cause" of attacks on several schools, a health clinic and the world body's Gaza headquarters.

Israel denies it intentionally struck the compounds, and says it was forced to act against militants using the buildings and other civilian areas for cover. Israel said the material it presented to the U.N. was largely ignored in the final report.

Ban said he commissioned the investigation to look at "the nine most serious incidents," and appointed five board members in February, soon after the fighting ended.

'Were untrue and are regretted'
The first of 11 recommendations calls for the U.N. to seek "formal acknowledgment by the government of Israel that its public statements alleging that Palestinians fired" from within the U.N.'s school in Jabalia on Jan. 6 and within the U.N.'s field office compound on Jan. 15 "were untrue and are regretted."

Another says the U.N. should "take appropriate action to seek accountability and pursue claims to secure reparation or reimbursement for all expenses incurred and payment made by the United Nations" because of deaths and injuries involving U.N. personnel and property.

In his presentation Tuesday, Ban took pains to point out that Israeli citizens in southern Israel "faced and continue to face indiscriminate rocket attacks by Hamas and other militant groups."

But Israel's deputy U.N. ambassador, Daniel Carmon, called the report "biased" and "one-sided."

"It poses grave questions about future cooperation with the United Nations in similar circumstances," he said.

He added the commission was "betraying" Israel's confidence by going beyond the scope of what it was supposed to investigate.

"For us it was quite a shock to see the report. Not because we were surprised there was criticism — I mean, we were ready to receive criticism — but the scope and especially the issues that are tackled in this report," Carmon said.

More than 40 were killed
In one strike near a U.N. school more than 40 people were killed, according to Gaza officials. At the time, witnesses told The Associated Press that militants fired from the area.

Ban said the purpose of the investigation, which he described as "completely independent" from his staff, was to establish a record of what happened.

He also denied the report was "watered down" in any way to please Israel's main supporter, the United States.

Israel launched the offensive in Gaza on Dec. 27 to weaken Gaza's Hamas government and end years of rocket attacks by the Islamic militant group.

The three-week war killed some 1,400 Palestinians, most of them civilians, according to Gaza health officials and human rights groups. Israel says the number was lower and a majority of the dead were militants.

Thirteen Israelis were killed.

"The spirit of the report and its language are tendentious and entirely unbalanced and ignore the facts as they were presented to the commission," Israel's 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."