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Page last updated at 14:26 GMT, Wednesday, 6 May 2009 15:26 UK

UN seeks $11m for Israeli raids

Israeli bombardment of Gaza, 14 January 2009
Israel has been accused of war crimes for air raids in heavily populated areas

UN chief Ban Ki-moon says he will seek more than $11m (£7m) compensation from Israel for damage to UN property in Gaza but ruled out further inquiries.

Both measures were recommended in a hard-hitting UN report on bombing raids on UN compounds in December and January in which some 40 Palestinians died.

It accuses Israel of targeting known civilian shelters and providing untrue statements to justify its actions.

Israel called the report "biased" after its summary was released on Tuesday.

But an Israeli official quoted by Haaretz newspaper said negotiations about compensation would start with the UN in the coming weeks.

The report found Israel to blame in six out of nine incidents when death or injury were caused to people sheltering at UN property and UN buildings were damaged.

In one case, Palestinian militants were found to have fired at a UN warehouse.

Correspondents say Israel lobbied hard against publication of the report. Israeli officials had blamed Hamas militants for using civilians as human shields, which Hamas has denied.

Momentum needed

In a covering letter with the report summary, Mr Ban said he did not plan to hold a further inquiry in line with his investigators' recommendation that allegations of war crimes committed by both sides should be reviewed by an "impartial" body.

UN REPORT'S MAIN FINDINGS

Israeli army responsible in six cases in which UN property was damaged and UN staff and other civilians hurt or killed

No military activity was carried out from within UN premises in any of the incidents

Israeli military's actions "involved varying degrees of negligence or recklessness"

Israeli military took "inadequate" precautions to protect UN premises and civilians inside


The findings were published in summarised form because some of the information had been given in "strict confidence", Ban Ki-moon said.

The UN board's first recommendation calls on Israel to acknowledge that it made "untrue public statements" by alleging Palestinians had fired from UN properties which were hit by Israeli fire during the Gaza conflict.

Mr Ban did not refer to this in his statement to journalists, and insisted: "It is not my intention to establish any further inquiry."

"I intend to address any other incidents relating to UN personnel on a case-by-case basis, and through dialogue with the Government of Israel.

"As I have said before, we need a durable ceasefire, which includes an end to arms smuggling, the opening of the crossings, recovery and reconstruction in Gaza, and steps toward Palestinian reconciliation.

"More importantly, we need to give new momentum to the search for a resolution of the conflict in the Middle East. For this, direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations must resume and the international community must engage."

War crimes suspicion

The investigations of this board of inquiry are not the last Israel may face over its conduct in Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in December and January, when some 1,300 Palestinians were killed, including many civilians.

A four-person team has been appointed by the UN Human Rights Council with a mandate to investigate alleged violations of international law including possible war crimes.

Team leader Richard Goldstone has said his team will be impartial, but it is not yet clear whether Israel will co-operate, having refused to work with previous UN missions.

Because of accusations of its inherent anti-Israeli attitude, a human rights council investigation may have less credibility than one set up directly by Mr Ban, but correspondents say the selection of the respected Mr Goldstone does give it greater clout.

In 2002, Israeli opposition forced UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to abandon plans for a Security Council investigation into the military's conduct in fighting in the Jenin refugee camp that year.

Controversy also surrounded a UN report in 1996 into the Israeli shelling of the UN base at Qana in southern Lebanon.

Washington tried to prevent publication after the report accused Israel over the deaths of some 100 civilians sheltering at the base.

Shortly afterwards the US vetoed a second term for the secretary-general who had ordered the report, Boutros Boutros Ghali of Egypt, although many other reasons have also been cited for the US move.



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