Hamas lambastes UN chief for criticizing tunnels

Senior official Mahmoud al-Zahar calls Ban Ki-moon a ‘political hypocrite,’ says Israel’s weapons are far more dangerous

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Mahmoud al-Zahar attends a demonstration in Khan Yunis in 2012. (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash 90)
Mahmoud al-Zahar attends a demonstration in Khan Yunis in 2012. (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash 90)

Hamas senior official Mahmoud al-Zahar said Wednesday the UN Chief Ban Ki-moon was a “political hypocrite,” for criticizing the cross-border tunnels into Israeli territory.

Zahar told the Palestinian al-Resala site that “the occupation” and Israel’s nuclear arsenal are far more dangerous than the attack tunnels, and accused the top UN official of “double standards.”

In a tour of a cross-border tunnel with Israeli military officials on Tuesday, Ban said he was “shocked by the tunnels used for the infiltration of terrorists.”

“No one needs to live under the constant threat and fear of rockets and tunnels digging underground,” said Ban.

Destroying the tunnel threat was one of Israel’s goals during the summer’s military campaign, which saw over 2,100 people killed in Gaza, according to Palestinian and and UN tallies, and 72 people killed in Israel. Israel says half of the dead were Hamas and other gunmen.

While in the south, Ban met with residents of Kibbutz Nirim, including the family of four-year-old Daniel Tragerman, who was killed in an August 22 mortar attack by Hamas on nearby Kibbutz Nahal Oz. Tragerman’s grandmother Paulina showed him an enlarged photo of the boy, who was killed by shrapnel from a mortar shell that exploded outside his home.

Ban Ki-moon touring a Hamas-built tunnel in southern Israel on October 14, 2014. (Photo credit: Haim Zach/Flash90/GPO)
Ban Ki-moon touring a Hamas-built tunnel in southern Israel on October 14, 2014. (Photo credit: Haim Zach/Flash90/GPO)

“He was just a little boy. What has he done wrong?” Ban asked in a speech following the encounter.

During his regional visit, Ban also toured the Gaza Strip and decried the damage, which he said exceeded the destruction in the 2008-9 Cast Lead campaign.

“The destruction which I have seen while coming to here is beyond description. This is a much more serious destruction than what I saw in 2009.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to express my deepest condolences to people who lost their lives… and loved ones,” he said.

Ban, who last visited the territory in 2012, said at a donor conference in Egypt on Sunday that his trip to the Palestinian enclave was “to listen directly to the people of Gaza.”

At the Cairo conference, Ban said “the root causes of the recent hostilities” were “a restrictive occupation that has lasted almost half a century, the continued denial of Palestinian rights and the lack of tangible progress in peace negotiations.”

Justin Jalil and AFP contributed to this report.

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