UN report says Hamas put Gazans at risk during summer conflict by storing weapons in UN facilities

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon touring tunnels built by Hamas under the Israel-Gaza border UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon touring tunnels built by Hamas under the Israel-Gaza border

The United Nations has released the summary of a United Nations inquiry report into the shelling of various UN facilities in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge last summer which concludes that although Israel was responsible for the shelling, Hamas placed Gaza’s residents in danger by storing weapons in UN facilities and firing rockets from their premises.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced in November that a board of inquiry, headed by Patrick Cammaert, a retired Dutch general and former commander of a UN peacekeeping mission in Congo, would examine the shelling of seven UN facilities, which resulted in the deaths of 44 Palestinians.

He published on Monday a 27-page summary of a 207-page report which is yet to be released. In a letter to the UN Security Council, Ban praised Israel for cooperating with the inquiry and for conducting its own investigations into the incidents covered plus others during last summer’s conflict. By contrast, Ban criticised the Palestinian Authority for failing to investigate possible Palestinian violations.

In a cover letter accompanying the summary of the inquiry’s findings, Ban Ki-moon wrote : “I am dismayed that Palestinian militant groups would put United Nations schools at risk by using them to hide their arms.”

The inquiry found weak security at the UN schools where weapons were found. It said in two cases that a “Palestinian armed group” likely fired from two of the schools.

Ban heavily criticised Hamas, concluding that weapons were stored in three separate UN schools by terror groups.

Nonetheless, Ban deplored the fatalities which were “caused as a result of Israeli actions,” adding “United Nations premises are inviolable and should be places of safety, particularly in a situation of armed conflict.”

However, Ban also heavily criticised Hamas, concluding that weapons were stored in three separate UN schools by terror groups.

Although the facilities were empty at the time, Ban said “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.”

A spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry said that although there are “some reservations” over “some of the report’s findings and conclusions,” it demonstrated that “when asked to assist in a professional and unbiased inquiry, Israel responds in a collaborative, open and forthcoming manner.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said, “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. Israel makes every effort to avoid harm to sensitive sites.”

Nahshon’s statement added, “The executive summary of the report clearly documents the exploitation by terrorist organizations of UN facilities in the Gaza Strip.”

Though Israel has boycotted a panel appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to inquiry into Operation Protective Edge, as the commission’s mandate appeared to target Israel, while the UNHRC itself has a track record of hostility towards Israel, .its government cooperated with the independent inquiry called by Ban Ki-moon and granted full access to information.

Last September, a senior Hamas official said the group had ‘’no choice’’ but to use residential areas from which to launch missiles into Israel.