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United Nations: UN Board of Inquiry Report on Operation Cast Lead

(May 5, 2009)

The board of inquiry examined the events in which nine UN installations were damaged during Operation Cast Lead.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will today (Tuesday, 5 May 2009) send to the UN Security Council his response to the summary of the report of the internal board of inquiry, which he previously formed. The board examined the events in which nine UN installations were damaged during Operation Cast Lead.

In his letter, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon emphasizes the close cooperation accorded to the inquiry team by the Israeli authorities, and determines that he has no intention of forming another board of inquiry. The Secretary General adds that his representatives are discussing the implementation of the report's recommendations with the Israeli authorities. In his letter, Secretary General Ban criticizes the firing of Kassam rockets at Israeli towns, and praises the coordination between the Israel Defence Force (IDF) and the UN during Operation Cast Lead. The Secretary General further emphasizes in his letter that the UN board of inquiry is not a judicial body and is not authorized to examine legal issues.

Immediately upon the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead, and unrelated to the UN investigation, Israel carried out independent inquiries into the damage caused to the UN installations. The findings of these inquiries were published two weeks ago, and proved beyond doubt that the IDF did not intentionally fire at the UN installations. Not only have the Hamas terrorists not conducted such inquiries, they have use violence and intimidation against citizens of Gaza as tools to prevent them from presenting the actual truth. In this manner they have deceived the investigators, the UN and public opinion.

The State of Israel rejects the criticism in the board's summary report, and determines that in both spirit and language, the report is tendentious, patently biased, and ignores the facts presented to the committee. The board of inquiry has preferred the claims of Hamas, a murderous terror organization, and by doing so has misled the world.

As noted by the Secretary General in his letter, during the course of its work the board members met with the Israeli team, which cooperated fully and with complete transparency. The Israeli team presented various intelligence materials, including videos, aerial photographs, eye-witness reports and other material. None of this information is reflected in the report.

Israel emphasizes that despite the fact that it was cleared of suspicions of war crimes raised during Operation Cast Lead, the report completely ignores the eight years of attacks against Israel that preceded the decision to initiate the operation, and ignores the difficult circumstances on the ground as dictated by Hamas and its methods of armed operation. As a terror organization, Hamas chose to position the battlefield in congested built-up areas, and in so doing, not only deliberately attacked Israeli civilians, as is determined in the report, but also put the lives of Palestinian civilians at risk and cynically and manipulatively used them as human shields.

The IDF took various precautions to prevent damage to installations and vehicles belonging to the UN and other international organizations. These installations were marked on the operational maps according to information provided by the UN and the other international organizations. Officers and soldiers were briefed accordingly prior to and during the mission. Surprisingly, the report lays no responsibility on the Hamas organization, which placed its installations and dispatched its men to confront the IDF in proximity to the UN installations. It is unfortunate that the authors of the report did not pay the appropriate attention to this pattern of warfare and Hamas responsibility for both the strikes against Israel and the harm to Palestinian civilians.

The report relates to a series of measures implemented by the IDF to warn the Palestinian population during the fighting, aimed at preventing civilian casualties.

Israel views the publication of the report's findings as the end of the internal UN inspection process. The UN is responsible for drawing its own conclusions regarding the means it should implement to contend with the complex reality in which a terror organization operates in proximity to UN installations without differentiation and in a manner that endangers UN activities. We expect clear statements and action from the UN in this regard.

Sources: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs