Thursday, January 15, 2009

Israel hits UN building in Gaza

Israel struck a UN building in Gaza City on Thursday. The government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert explained that its forces near the building drew fire and acted in response. Unfortunately for Israel, this has prompted criticism from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The relevant questions here are: What did the building -- the headquarters of the UN Relief and Works Agency -- look like? Who was inside it, or close to it, when the military attacked? Were they UN personnel? Refugees? Hamas militants?
From what a UN official told the New York Times, the area attacked was a complex consisting of at least two buildings, as well as five fully-laden fuel-carrying vehicles. Already there are conflicting stories. The official denied any militant activity, while Israel argued that it happened.
Those following this conflict will get multiple perspectives -- Israeli, Hamas, and UN. We need a comprehensive picture of the situation at this building before criticizing Israel for its action.
As for the UN's response, Secretary Ban has a choice. He could keep his agency in Gaza, or he could pull it out. The UN did the latter after terrorists attacked several of its facilities in Iraq in 2003. We will see whether the UN acts differently here.

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