Moon orders probe after reports UNWRA returned missiles to Hamas
WASHINGTON — UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon commissioned a review of UN practices for relocating weapons found on its premises following reports that rockets found in an UNRWA school were returned to Hamas.
“The secretary general is alarmed to hear that rockets were placed in an UNRWA school in Gaza and that subsequently these have gone missing,” Ban said in a statement Wednesday, a day after the second such cache of weapons was uncovered in a school run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the principal group assisting Palestinian refugees.
“The secretary general has asked for a full review of such incidents and how the U.N. responds in such instances,” the statement said. “The United Nations is taking concerted action to increase its vigilance in preventing such episodes from happening again.”
Ban, the statement said, directed two security departments to “to immediately develop and implement an effective security plan for the safe and secure handling of any weapons discovered in U.N. premises.”
Beyond saying the rockets had “gone missing,” Ban’s statement did not say whether the rockets were returned to Hamas, which is now warring with Israel.
Avigdor Liberman, Israel’s foreign minister, accused UNRWA of returning the missiles to Hamas when he met Wednesday with Ban, who is in the region trying to bring about a cease-fire, The Jerusalem Post reported.
Christopher McGrath, an UNRWA spokesperson, told JTA in an email that UNRWA’s practice was to refer unexploded ordnance to “local authorities.” He said the local authorities in this case did not answer to Hamas but to the government of unaffiliated technocrats in Ramallah.
McGrath did not say whether UNRWA knew what the bomb disposal experts did with the weapons once they were removed or if the weapons ended up with Hamas.
“They pledged to pass a message to all parties not to violate UNRWA neutrality,” he said of the authorities.