Text size

Israel's ambassador at the UN, Dan Gilerman, will send a letter to UN Director-General Kofi Annan tomorrow, demanding the dismissal of Peter Hansen as commissioner-general of UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Work Agency).

The letter will communicate Israel's severe protest against Hamas using UN ambulances to smuggle arms and terrorists through the Gaza Strip.

UNRWA yesterday denied Israel's allegations.

Israeli representatives intend to screen a short film with aerial photos taken from an unmanned reconnaissance plane that provides proof of the use of UN ambulances for transporting Qassam rockets.

Last Wednesday the Israel Defense Forces documented two men loading a Qassam rocket onto a van bearing a large UN logo. The photographed images, taken from an unmanned plane in the Jabalya refugee camp, were broadcast on network television on Friday night. After the rocket was loaded, the vehicle left the spot.

Hansen told Haaretz that it is easy to prove that the suspicious-looking object shown

is a stretcher. According to Hansen, the image broadcast on television shows two men approaching two ambulances, one of whom is carrying an object that could not weigh more than a few kilos. Even a Goliath could not have run, Hansen said, if he were carrying a heavy Qassam rocket. He said that he had learned from a simple Google search that a Qassam rocket is 1.80 meters long and weighs 50 kilos. The photographic image, on the other hand, Hansen explained, reveals an object 5 cm wide, while the Qassam has a diameter of 17 cm. A piece of cloth, he added, was clearly visible in the photo, which proves it was an ambulance stretcher.

Hansen also said that he is concerned that the IDF's accusations might lead to incitement, since soldiers who give credence to the IDF statement, may become suspicious of every ambulance that arrives at a checkpoint, putting UNRWA crews in grave danger.

UN ambulances have been used before to transport armed Palestinians and weapons. Last May similar scenes were documented by the IDF in Rafah and in the Zeitoun neighborhood in Gaza.

Gilerman has conveyed information about the film to Kofi Annan, and to his envoy in the region, Terje Larsen, demanding explanations.

Several months ago Israel filed a complaint in New York against UNRWA personnel for ignoring the use of UN ambulances by Hamas. The complaint never earned a significant response from the director-general. This is the first time that Israel is directly demanding the removal of Hansen, a Swedish diplomat, be removed from the UNRWA post.

Several months ago, Israel complained that Hansen had submitted exaggerated reports about the number of houses demolished by the IDF in Rafah. Recently, Hansen said that he was forced to send foreign workers employed by UNRWA out of the Gaza strip, because Israel had been harassing them. An inquiry later revealed that the decision to remove the workers had been motivated by fear of violence at the hands of Palestinian elements.

Israel also complained to Annan after an article by Hansen in the International Herald Tribune denounced Israel in harsh language.