Shelling of UN compound must be investigated

Israeli army shells are reported to have struck a United Nations compound in Gaza City on Thursday morning, injuring three people.

A building containing emergency humanitarian assistance was also set on fire, when the shells – apparently containing white phosphorus – struck the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) compound. UNRWA said that it had repeatedly asked the Israeli army not to fire in the vicinity of the compound.

“The attack on UNRWA, apparently targeting a clearly identified humanitarian compound, underscores the need for an impartial and thorough investigation into a range of attacks in which civilians were killed or injured and civilian buildings and infrastructure was destroyed,” said Malcolm Smart, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme.

“Amnesty International is particularly worried about Israel’s use of what seems to be white phosphorus, a substance that causes severe burns when it comes into contact with skin. Although not banned under international law, white phosphorus is an incendiary weapon which should never be used in densely-populated civilian areas due to its devastating effects.”

According to UN officials, at least 700 people remain in the compound seeking shelter while fighting continues to rage. UNRWA said that the attack had prevented its trucks leaving the compound to distribute urgently needed food and medical supplies.

“International law unequivocally forbids attacks against personnel, installations, material, units or vehicles involved in a humanitarian assistance mission,” said Malcolm Smart. “Deliberate attacks on humanitarian assistance facilities or personnel may constitute a war crime.”

Amnesty International has called for an immediate and independent investigation into the shelling, which disrupted the distribution of humanitarian aid to Gaza’s beleaguered civilians.