WASHINGTON – The Israel Defense Forces fired intentionally at United Nations facilities in the Gaza Strip and at civilians hiding in them during Operation Cast Lead, according to a harsh report submitted by a special board of inquiry appointed by the UN secretary-general.
Although the report does not accuse Israel of committing war crimes and does not include a recommendation for legal proceedings, Jerusalem views it as a one-sided and even hostile document, as it fails to mention the Hamas terror directed ceaselessly at the civilian population in Israel.
After receiving the report, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon deliberated for several days on how to respond to it. He eventually worded a summarizing and "softened" three-page document, which he plans to submit to the Security Council on Tuesday.
The original report included a recommendation to probe two incidents which involved the use of phosphorus, but this recommendation was not adopted by Ban, as he believes it exceeded the mandate given to the committee.
The board of inquiry was led by Ian Martin, the former secretary-general of Amnesty International. As noted by Ban, the IDF and Israeli Foreign Ministry fully cooperated with the committee.
Diplomatic effort to minimize damages
The Israeli Information Forum held a conference call Tuesday morning to discuss the issue. Representatives of the Prime Minister's Office demanded that Israel refrain from capitulating or apologizing following the UN report.
One of the decisions made was to remind the world that Hamas is a terror organization which caused the war and operated among civilian population and near UN facilities, firing thousands of rockets into Israel.
The PM's Office reps also said that the IDF's operation in Gaza followed numerous warnings. "The responsibility lies on the shoulders of the Hamas terror organization, which conducted the offensive on Israel's citizens," one of them said.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman discussed the issue with the UN chief in recent days, seeking to minimize the damage caused by the report. Foreign Ministry officials stressed that the report did not deal with the entire Gaza offensive, but only with the incidents in which UNRWA facilities were fired on.
President Shimon Peres, who is currently visiting the United States and is scheduled to meet with Secretary-General Ban, has also been recruited for the diplomatic battle against the report. Foreign Ministry Director-General Yossi Gal plans to leave for New York for a meeting with UN officials in a bid to minimize the damage.
Roni Sofer contributed to this report