Israel agrees to compensate UN for losses in Gaza War

Israel's F-16I fighter jet
The United Nations says it has reached an agreement “in principal” with Israel on compensation for UN losses during last year’s war in Gaza. Meanwhile, fresh attacks on Thursday hit the region.

UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said agreement has been reached in principal “on the terms of an arrangement under which Israel would make a payment” for losses sustained by the UN during the Gaza War.

On December 27, 2008, Israel commenced the military operation “Operation Cast Lead” against the Gaza Strip with the stated aim of halting rocket attacks on Israeli territory and arms smuggling via tunnels dug under the Gaza-Egyptian border. The war ended on January 18 when Israel first declared a unilateral ceasefire, followed by Hamas announcing a ceasefire soon thereafter.

Much of the United Nations’ information comes from a UN-backed investigation led by Richard Goldstone, a respected South African jurist. The investigation revealed that Israeli weaponry was used against several UN schools, a health clinic, and the world body’s Gaza headquarters during the three-week war.

The controversial, 574-page Goldstone Report, which was released on September 15, 2009, condemned the Israeli Army for “deliberate attacks on civilian objects in violation of the rule of customary international humanitarian law whereby attacks must be strictly limited to military objectives.”

The number of Palestinians killed during the 22-day conflict is estimated at between 1,387 and 1,417, compared with three Israeli fatal casualties in southern Israel and 10 soldiers killed during the fighting.

In September, the UN team recommended that the 15-member Security Council require Israeli and Palestinian authorities to report to it “within the next six months,” with regard to the violations cited in the report.

The team also recommended that the UN Security Council should set up its own body of independent experts to report to it on the progress of the investigations and prosecutions of both sides.

Israel has passionately rejected the findings of the Goldstone Report, which accused both Palestinian militants and Israeli forces of war crimes, arguing it was biased and failed to take into account that Hamas routinely uses civilian institutions as military cover.

On November 3, 2009, the United States House of Representatives echoed Israeli sentiments, overwhelmingly passing a resolution calling the report “irredeemably biased and unworthy of further consideration or legitimacy.”

Fresh fighting hits Gaza

Meanwhile, fresh on the heels of the announced agreement between Israel and the UN, there are reports of Israeli airstrikes against smuggling tunnels on the Gaza-Egypt border.

The Israel Defense Forces launched a series of airstrikes overnight Thursday against targets in the Gaza Strip, hours after a Qassam rocket fired from the Strip hit southern Israel.

Three Palestinians were reportedly killed in the strike, emergency crews on the scene said.

Dr. Salam Abu Salem of Rafah Hospital told AP that the bodies of two men ended up in his hospital. Later, an AP cameraman reported witnessing a third body being removed from the same tunnel.

Explosions were reported in Gaza City, Khan Younis and Rafah, sending flames shooting up into the morning sky.

The IDF Spokesman's Office said Israel Air Force aircraft bombed four Gaza targets: a tunnel linking the Strip to Israel, a weaponry workshop in Gaza City and two smuggling tunnels linking the southern Strip to Egypt.

Earlier Thursday, the Ma'an news agency reported that “the Israel Air Force dropped thousands of warning leaflets over Gaza, warning Gaza residents to stay away from the border with Israel and to avoid involvement in smuggling.”

One of the leaflets featured a map, warning Gaza residents that anyone within 300 meters of the border fence is endangering themselves.

Another leaflet urged Gazans not to act as bystanders as smugglers put them and their communities in harm's way. The leaflet included a phone number and email address for individuals wishing to provide any information.

Violence in Gaza has declined but not ceased since Israel's devastating offensive on the Gaza Strip a year ago.

Robert Bridge, RT