Israel backtracks in dispute with UN

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The Independent Online

The Israeli army backtracked last night on its claim that video footage from an unmanned drone had demonstrated that a UN ambulance in Gaza had been used to transport Qassam rockets of the sort that killed two Israeli children last week.

The Israeli army backtracked last night on its claim that video footage from an unmanned drone had demonstrated that a UN ambulance in Gaza had been used to transport Qassam rockets of the sort that killed two Israeli children last week.

The admission that it was "reviewing" the footage came as Israeli forces killed the top commander of the armed Islamic Jihad faction in a missile strike which destroyed his car as he drove through Gaza City. Hours later a missile strike killed two members of the Fatah-linked al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in Gaza's Jabaliya refugee camp.

The army admitted that it was "impossible to swear" that the object shown being loaded into the ambulance was a rocket and not a stretcher as the United NationsRelief and Works Agency has insisted.

At the same time, however, Israel made clear its anger at comments in a Canadian television interview by Peter Hansen, the head of UNRWA, that there were likely to be Hamas members on the UN agency's payroll. The army repeated that "we have a general concern about UNRWA, about the use of its property and some of its members". The army said 13 of UNRWA's large and mainly Palestinian workforce in Gaza had been arrested over the past four years and that there were plans to indict them for "suspected links to terrorism". A UN spokeswoman in New York said she had no information about the arrests.

Bashir al-Dabbash, the man killed when his car was incinerated by a missile attack close to Gaza's main Shifa hospital, was said to be the senior military commander of the relatively small Islamic Jihad faction for the whole of the occupied Palestinian territories.

The UN Security Council was preparing last night to vote on a draft resolution condemning Israel's incursion into the northern Gaza Strip, which started after a rocket attack on Sderot last Wednesday which killed two children.

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