Peres tells Ban: Israel will never accept UN Gaza probe
Investigation into IDF's alleged firing on UN facilities is 'unfair and one-sided,' says president.
President Shimon Peres said on Wednesday that Israel would never apologize for its military offensive on the Gaza Strip earlier this year, calling a damning United Nations report on its conduct there "unfair and one-sided."
The UN-commissioned investigation found the Israel Defense Forces were responsible for civilian deaths and damage to UN compounds in Gaza Strip.
"We will never accept it," Peres, after meeting with UN Secretary Genera Ban Ki-Moon in New York. "It's outrageous."
The three-member investigative board was established by Ban to seek the truth about a number of military incidents which occurred during Israel's three-week war with Hamas in late December and early January. The 184-pgae report, which was released on Tuesday, said the IDF was responsible for six of nine attacks against UN-run compounds in Gaza.
"The secretary general is not responsible for the report," Peres said following the meeting with Ban in his 38th floor office. "We have high regards for the secretary general, but we cannot accept one word in the report. The report is unfair and one-sided."
Ban said Tuesday that he wanted the board to clarify all the facts regarding the incidents. But he said the board had no court of law obligations and the report was an internal UN document. He nonetheless supported the findings.
Peres said the Israeli government had cooperated with the investigative board, but accused its members of stepping out of their mandate by investigating incidents not related to UN compounds. He said Israel has set up a group to discuss a UN demand for compensation for damage to UN buildings, estimated at about $11 million dollars.
In once case, the IDF fired 122mm mortar rounds into the immediate vicinity of the Jabalia school on January 6, killing 30 to 40 Palestinians, the investigators said. The site was the refuge of hundreds of Palestinians who had fled the Israel-Hamas conflict.
"The board found that the undisputed cause of the injuries and the deaths to persons in the immediate vicinity of the school was the firing of 122mm mortar rounds by the IDF, which landed in the area outside the school and at the compound of a family home nearby," the report said.
The investigators called on Israel to acknowledge it had filed "untrue" statements about attacks against the Jabalia school and a UN compound, and to express regret.
Peres said Israel would not retract its statements because the accusations against Israel were also "untrue."
During his encounter with reporters at UN headquarters, Peres insisted that Israeli troops had no intention of shooting at Palestinian civilians and acknowledged that mistakes were made during the conflict with Hamas.
Peres said he had also raised with Ban a speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a UN human rights conference in Geneva last month, in which he denounced Israel as a racist regime, prompting a walkout by Western delegates.
Peres protested in particular that the speech had been delivered on a day when Jews were commemorating the Holocaust by "the man who threatens another Holocaust or whatever it is ... There is a limit to cynicism and there is a limit to formalities, and this we shall remember very strongly."
Earlier Wednesday, Ban called on Israel to stop blocking fuel, cash and other materials that are urgently needed to alleviate hardship in the Gaza Strip.
At a UN-sponsored international meeting in Cyprus in support of Israeli-Palestinian peace, Ban he was very disturbed that life in the Palestinian territory remains extremely difficult more than three months after Israel's offensive there.
Ban said a near total ban on trade except for basic needs is preventing broader humanitarian assistance, economic recovery and long-term development. He said measures that increase hardship and suffering in Gaza are unacceptable and must stop immediately.