Israel says it has paid U.N. over Gaza damage
Israel has paid the United Nations $10.5 million for property losses and injuries the United Nations suffered during Israel's attack on Gaza a year ago, the world body and Israeli diplomats said on Friday, Reuters reported.
"With this payment, the United Nations has agreed that the financial issues relating to those incidents ... are concluded," U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky told a regular news briefing.
A senior Israeli diplomat at the United Nations, who asked not to be named, said, "We have decided to make an ex gratia payment to the United Nations and we have indeed done it."
"It has to do specifically with damages done to the United Nations," the diplomat said, adding that Israel did not take legal responsibility. He and Nesirky specified that the payment was $10.5 million.
A U.N. inquiry last year put the cost of damage to U.N. property in Gaza during the December 2008-January 2009 conflict at just over $11 million, almost all of it caused by Israeli forces.
The main damage to U.N. property in Gaza came on January 15, 2009, when Israeli shells, some containing the incendiary substance white phosphorus, hit a compound of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), badly damaging a warehouse and training center. Several U.N.-run schools were hit in other strikes.
UNRWA provides aid to Palestinian refugees.
Israel said it attacked Gaza to end rocket launches by Palestinian Hamas militants into Israel, and that damage to U.N. premises was caused unintentionally when its troops responded to Palestinian fire.
The Jewish state, however, agreed to consider a U.N. reimbursement request sent in July. Nesirky said that claim related to the property damage and to minor injuries suffered by 11 U.N. employees.
The Israeli diplomat said his country was not terming the payment compensation and portrayed the negotiations as having being conducted with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
"We do not take any responsibility for what has happened, but we understand that there have been damages and that the Secretary-General cares about it, and this is important for him, and it's also important for us what the U.N. is doing in Gaza," he said.
Israel's onslaught on Gaza killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, including civilians and Hamas fighters. A total of 13 Israelis were killed.