Israel claims video shows rockets being loaded on UN ambulances

Monday, October 4, 2004

TEL AVIV 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 gunners.

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 logo.

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.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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