Chris Gunness, the spokesman for the UN’s Palestinian refugee relief agency in Gaza, dismissed Thursday as “complete falsehood” Israeli claims that UNRWA returned, directly to Hamas, the rockets it found in its schools.
In keeping with protocol all over the world, he told Channel 2, “the local bomb-disposal experts are called in and [the rockets] are taken away.”
“The rockets were passed on to the government authorities in Gaza, which is Hamas. In other words, UNRWA handed to Hamas rockets that could well be shot at Israel,” a senior Israeli official had told The Times of Israel.
Asked how he thought Israel should respond to rocket attacks by Hamas, Gunness replied: “Making peace is the only way forward.”
He said that 225,000 Gazans were being sheltered in UNRWA facilities and that his agency was collapsing under the strain. He also said that eight members of UNRWA staff have been killed in the fighting.
Gunness said he had no doubt that Israeli bombs hit several UN facilities where dozens of people have died in recent days. In Gaza now, he said, there is “nowhere safe to run and nowhere safe to hide.
“We are confident that there were no militants in the installations,” he continued, rejecting Israeli claims that in some of the cases IDF troops had opened fire after coming under attack from in and around the UN compounds.
“Just because there are militants in the area doesn’t transform a school that has 3,000 people in it into a military target,” added the spokesman.
On Wednesday, 16 people were killed after several shells hit a UN school in Gaza City’s Jabaliya refugee camp.
Several hours later, a visibly shaken Gunness broke down and cried during a television interview.
On Tuesday, UNRWA admitted that it had found Hamas rockets in a UN school, the third such instance since the beginning of the war.
Gunness said that because the schools were closed for summer vacation and were not being used to shelter Palestinians, there was no staff present to monitor what was going on at the sites.