UN team arrives to probe Israeli accusations against UNRWA

A clip from one of several films taken by IDF reconnaissance drones between September 20 and October 1.

A United Nations team has arrived in Jerusalem to look into allegations by Israel that a UN ambulance driver was filmed loading a Kassam rocket into his vehicle, a UN spokesman said today.

The team will meet with officials over the next few days and will be asking the Israeli Government and the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) to cooperate with them, Fred Eckhard said.

Early this week UNRWA Commissioner-General Peter Hansen said an investigation and analysis of the footage captured by an Israeli drone established that the object in question was a patient stretcher.

  • IDF VIDEO [2.4MB, Windows Media Player]
  • Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who met with Israeli Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman to discuss the allegations, said yesterday that he raised the point that if it is determined “that the facts are not correct, that [the Israelis] would issue a disclaimer on their side.”

    The group, which was headed to the region on a previously scheduled visit to review UN operations there, will report back to Mr. Annan after its return to New York, Mr. Eckhard said.

    Meanwhile, clarifying recent media reports of UNRWA staff being held by Israeli authorities for their involvement in terror activities, Mr. Eckhard said the Agency was aware of only one staff member in Gaza currently under detention.

    “This individual has been held for over two years,” he told the daily press briefing in New York. “He is still awaiting trial.”

    In the West Bank, he added, there were 24 UNRWA staff in Israeli detention, but most were being held under administrative detention without a charge or trial.

    “Whenever an Agency staff member is detained, by any authority, UNRWA immediately writes requesting information about the detained staff member,” Mr. Eckhard said. “In the case of those detained by Israel, UNRWA has rarely received any feedback or information.”

    Related Links

  • Israel backs off accusations against UN refugee agency, UN (5 October 2004)
  • Israel’s ‘malicious propaganda’ endangers UN staff, UNRWA (4 October 2004)
  • UN refugee agency demands apology from Israel, UNRWA (4 October 2004)