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The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) yesterday demanded an apology from Israel over accusations that Gaza militants used a UN vehicle to transport a homemade rocket.

The world body refuted the charges yesterday at a news conference in Gaza. It showed what it said was the ambulance seen in footage released by the Israel Defense Forces and presented its driver and rescue workers to reporters.

Rescue worker Wahel Ghabayen, 38, said he had run with a stretcher to a school in Jabalya on Friday after he heard that someone there may have been wounded. The wounded boy had already been moved by the time he arrived, he said.

"I came back to the car with the stretcher, and I folded it and threw it inside the car," he said. "If it was a missile, I would not throw it into the car but would put it in carefully."

The director of operations for UNRWA, Lionel Brisson, said UN workers do not carry weapons or armed militants in UN vehicles. "We want an apology from the Israelis, because we didn't commit any wrongdoing," he said.

UN officials said the object was a stretcher, noting that the man in the footage was carrying it with one hand, a difficult task with a Qassam, which weighs up to 35 kilograms.