TEL AVIV ø Israel has released video footage which it says shows Kassam-class, short-range missiles
being loaded into an ambulance of the UN Relief and Works Agency in the
northern Gaza Strip.
The footage, taken last week, showed the ambulance with
the Kassams driving off, purportedly to deliver the weapons to Hamas
Israel has demanded a UN investigation of the incident. Israeli
officials said the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has also called
for the dismissal of UNRWA commissioner-general Peter Hansen.
Officials said Israel was preparing to send a letter to UN
secretary-general Kofi Annan that would demand the dismissal of Hansen.
Israeli officials said Hansen had been involved in the use of UN ambulances
by Palestinian insurgents.
Over the weekend, the Israeli military released a video taken on Oct. 1
that showed Hamas gunmen loading a Kassam missile into what appeared to be a
UN ambulance in the Jabalya refugee camp. The vehicle contained a large UN
Military sources said Israeli combat units were ordered not to attack
the UN ambulance. They said the footage was taken by an Israel Air Force
unmanned aerial vehicle.
The UN has denied that its vehicles transported Kassam missiles. UNRWA
said it had not been officially contacted by Israeli authorities.
This was not the first time a UN ambulance was seen participating in the
Palestinian insurgency. In May 2004, the Israeli military, which also
released video footage, charged that UN ambulances had transported weapons
and insurgents in Gaza City and Rafah. UNRWA failed to confirm the Israeli
accusation, but released a statement that urged Palestinian combatants
against interfering with the agency's ambulance services.
The Israeli complaint came as the military continued its
search-and-destroy operation for Kassam missiles and gunners in the Gaza
Strip. More than 60 Palestinians have been killed so far in the operation,
including four who tried to infiltrate Israel. Military sources said six
Kassam squads and three anti-tank missile units were eliminated in air force
attacks over the last five days.
On late Saturday, an Israeli air force helicopter fired a missile that
killed two Hamas operatives. Military sources said the target of the missile
strike was Mahdi Mushtaha, a senior member of the Kassam infrastructure in
the Gaza Strip. The sources said Mushtaha managed the workshops and
laboratories that produced components of the Kassam missiles.