United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned Israel for firing on seven UN schools during last year’s war in Gaza, killing Palestinians who had sought shelter there.
“I deplore the fact that at least 44 Palestinians were killed as a result of Israeli actions and at least 227 injured at United Nations premises being used as emergency shelters,” Ban wrote in a letter to the Security Council, summarizing the findings of an independent UN board of inquiry.
Ban set up the five-member panel in November to investigate attacks that damaged at least 223 schools and facilities that were run by the UN or Hamas, which rules the Gaza strip, during the seven-week conflict there last summer. More than 2,100 Palestinians and 70 Israelis were killed after fighting ended in a truce in August.
Israel has said Hamas used civilians as human shields by locating weapons and fighters in schools and residential neighborhoods and violated human rights by firing rockets at civilian areas in Israel.
The summary of the inquiry’s 207-page report, which won’t be made public, detailed instances such as the Israeli military firing 88 mortar rounds, an antitank projectile and a missile on UN girls’ schools.
The inquiry also found that Palestinian militant groups hid weapons at three empty UN schools, and in two cases “probably” fired from those sites. Ban said such actions are “unacceptable” because UN locations are “inviolable.”
“Incidents attributed by the report to Israel have already been subject to examinations and criminal investigations were launched where relevant,” the Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a series of postings on its official Twitter account.
Israel “makes every effort to avoid harm to sensitive sites,” while “terrorist groups use UN facilities as shields for terrorist activities,” the ministry said.
The UN Security Council was set to meet on Tuesday to discuss the inquiry’s findings at Jordan’s request, according to a council diplomat who asked not to be identified citing protocol.