Israel's UN envoy to demand removal of UNRWA chief
Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Dan Gilerman, will send a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Sunday, demanding the dismissal of Peter Hansen from his position as commissioner-general of UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Work Agency).
The letter will communicate Israel's severe protest at the fact that Hamas is using UN ambulances as a means of smuggling arms and terrorists through the Gaza Strip.
UNRWA on Saturday 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. Army sources say that the IDF avoided firing at the vehicle, as it had done in other instances, fearing that it might be a UN ambulance.
UNRWA maintains a fleet of ambulances in the Gaza Strip, which are used for evacuating wounded. 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 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. Israel has also voiced objections about Peter Hansen's conduct, claiming he has consistently adopted a trenchant anti-Israel line. However, this is the first time that Israel is directly and unambiguously demanding Hansen's removal from his UNRWA post.
Hansen, a Danish diplomat, was appointed commissioner-general of UNRWA several years ago, making him one of the most senior officials in the organization.
Several months ago, Israel complained that Hansen had submitted exaggerated reports to the UN 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 following the publication of an article by Hansen in the International Herald Tribune in which he denounced Israel in harsh language.
In its denial, an UNRWA source said: "The occupation authorities didn't present any evidence to prove such claims and allegations." The source added: "UNRWA just offers humanitarian aide to the Palestinians, and it is not part of the ongoing conflict."
"Until now, the Israeli government has not officially contacted UNRWA concerning these allegations and claims, which UNRWA totally rejects, because this would hurt its credibility in doing its job," said the source.
Link for the UAV video.