JERUSALEM – Peter Hansen, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), has written a strongly-worded protest to Silvan Shalom, Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, demanding an apology for allegations made against UNRWA’s ambulance drivers in the Gaza Strip. Israel’s military and its ambassador to the United Nations have alleged that it has footage of a Palestinian rocket being transported in an UNRWA ambulance. An investigation by UNRWA and analysis of the footage has established that the object in question was a patient stretcher.
In the letter, which was sent today, Mr Hansen writes:
“Given the technical means and military expertise at the disposal of the IDF to enlarge and analyse the pictures taken by the IDF drone, it is inconceivable that the IDF could have made this egregiously erroneous allegation in good faith. While UNRWA’s denial has now been acknowledged by responsible media outlets, there is no such denial shown on the IDF website.”
“It is appalling that, with the serious conflict now raging in the Northern Gaza Strip, where UNRWA ambulances are operating in constant danger alongside those of other humanitarian agencies to try to save and transport scores of wounded Palestinians to hospital, the Government of Israel would put out such deliberately inciteful, false and malicious propaganda, encouraging IDF soldiers on the ground (or in the air) to think that UNRWA ambulances and other humanitarian vehicles are transporting terrorists and weapons.”
“Accordingly, I request an immediate public retraction and apology from the Government of Israel and that the apology and retraction be transmitted to all the media outlets who received the film clip in the first instance and be placed on both the IDF and the MFA websites.”
Mr Hansen has repeatedly been made the subject of personally offensive and distorted accusations of bias by the Israeli authorities. UNRWA believes it is noteworthy that the Agency and Peter Hansen have most often been the targets of false allegations following extensive Israeli military operations in the occupied Palestinian territory in which there have been large numbers of Palestinian casualties.
UNRWA asked the IDF on Saturday to provide it with the original footage of the incident to assist the Agency in its own investigation. There has so far been no response to that request.