Israel 'sorry' for bombing Gaza aid
Fri, 16 Jan 2009 15:07:50 GMT
A UN foreign worker runs outside the UN warehouse in Gaza City after the Israeli military shelled the compound on January 15, destroying tons of badly-needed supplies.
Israel's premier says he is "very sorry" for an Israeli attack that destroyed tons of food and supplies in a UN compound in Gaza.
Israeli artillery shells struck the UN headquarters in the Gaza Strip Thursday. The attack set ablaze the warehouses in the compound, which held humanitarian aid for Palestinian refugees.
The strike, which was reportedly carried out using white phosphorus shells, drew a sharp rebuke from the UN chief, Ban Ki-moon, who called it an "outrage".
Head of Gaza operations for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), John Ging, said the compound -- consisting of workshops and warehouses -- was struck about half-dozen times, the Associated Press reported.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert claimed the army had bombarded the site after Hamas fighters had opened fired from that location.
"It is absolutely true that we were attacked from that place but the consequences are very sad and we apologize for it," he said.
"I don't think it should have happened and I'm very sorry," Olmert added.
According to UNRWA's Ging, more than 700 civilians had taken shelter in the UN compound. Following the strike, UN workers and Palestinian firefighters struggled to salvage what they could from the debris.
The UN secretary-general, who is visiting the region to put an end to a 20-day Israeli campaign in Gaza, has called for an official probe into the bombing.
Tel Aviv launched Operation Cast Lead on December 27 to put an end to rocket attacks against southern Israeli towns. At least 1,133 Palestinians have died during the offensive, while some 5,150 others have been wounded.
Hamas, the democratically-elected ruler of the coastal sliver, demands a cessation of an 18-month Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip before its fighters suspend rocket attacks.
The huge number of civilian casualties in the densely-populated coastal sliver has provoked widespread outrage around the globe.
A fierce controversy has also broken out over the alleged use of white phosphorus, also known by the military as WP or Willie Pete, by the Israeli army in Gaza
The International Criminal Court prosecutor, meanwhile, said Wednesday that it lacks jurisdiction to investigate war crimes allegations against Israel.