Israeli envoy slams ‘misconduct’ in UN report on children in war

Ron Prosor tells secretary-general that Algerian legal expert Leila Zerrougui unfairly focused on Israel, rejected Israeli input

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Israel's Ambassador to Germany Ron Prosor. as Ambassador to the UN (courtesy)
Israel's Ambassador to Germany Ron Prosor. as Ambassador to the UN (courtesy)

Israel’s envoy to the United Nations has accused the author of a UN report on children and armed conflict of “improper conduct” in preparing the document, claiming that she consistently ignored relevant information provided by Israel and focused disproportionately on the Jewish state compared to other war zones.

Ambassador Ron Prosor sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon listing his grievances with the annual report penned by Algerian legal expert Leila Zerrougui, who is the UN’s special representative for children and armed conflict, Reuters reported on Thursday.

In his missive, Prosor raised “deep concerns regarding the improper conduct — at every working level — of the office of… Zerrougui in the process of drafting and producing the report.”

Prosor also accused Zerrougui of “biased conduct against Israel” and maintained that Israel did not violate international law during the summer 2014 conflict in the Gaza Strip, when the IDF battled against Hamas and other Palestinian militias for 50 days.

Leila Zerrougui (Courtesy)
Leila Zerrougui (Courtesy)

The global report, which was scheduled to come up for debate at the UN Security Council on Thursday, covered the whole of 2014 and included a review of the Gaza conflict.

Prosor complained that Zerrougui’s office “repeatedly refused attempts on our part to provide official evidence and facts.”

In an email response to Reuters, Zerrougui’s chief of staff Sharon Riggle wrote that Israel had been granted a standard two-week period to respond to the report as well as three extra days.

Prosor claimed that the report paid disproportionate attention to Israel despite the high number of child casualties in Iraq, where the Islamic State group has taken control of large areas.

According to a Reuters tally, the UN report includes 32 paragraphs on Israel, compared with just eight on Iraq. Afghanistan was covered in 15 paragraphs, Syria 18, and Darfur 11.

The UN report, circulated on June 8, also doesn’t mention Hamas by name, and Israeli officials said that even though they told Zerrougui’s office that rockets fired by the Palestinian group had damaged Israeli medical centers and schools, those incidents were not mentioned.

UN officials said Zerrougui had recommended that both Israel and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, be placed on the report’s list of parties that recruit, use, kill, maim or commit acts of sexual violence against children. But the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because the recommendation was not public, said there were differences of opinion among those on the ground regarding whether Israel should be listed.

In the end, neither Israel nor Hamas were put on the list. The current list has 51 groups including Boko Haram and Islamic State, as well as the armed forces of eight countries including Syria, Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

Ban, in whose name the report was published, slammed Israel for Palestinian child casualties.

He urged Israel “to take concrete and immediate steps, including by reviewing existing policies and practices, to protect children, to prevent the killing and maiming of children, and to respect the special protection afforded to schools and hospitals.”

Some 2,100 Gazans were killed during the summer war between Israel and Hamas led-fighters, according to Palestinian tallies. Israel acknowledges that about half of those were noncombatants but blames Hamas for all civilian deaths in Gaza, since Hamas and other groups fought from within residential areas.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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