BREAKING: White House: US condemns Israel's shelling of UN school in Gaza Strip.
— The Associated Press (@AP) July 30, 2014
The United States determining that A) Israel was responsible for the attack on United Nations school and B) condemning Israel for that attack would have been a game-changing event in the more than 20-day-old conflict in Gaza. But that did not happen.
But the back and forth over the AP’s misreading of a National Security Council statement buries the lede. The real story is in the United States issuing what reads like a mild condemnation of the not particularly neutral role the United Nations has played in the going conflict in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
The United States condemns the shelling of a UNRWA school in Gaza, which reportedly killed and injured innocent Palestinians – including children – and UN humanitarian workers.
“We are extremely concerned that thousands of internally displaced Palestinians who have been called on by the Israeli military to evacuate their homes are not safe in UN designated shelters in Gaza. We also condemn those responsible for hiding weapons in United Nations facilities in Gaza. All of these actions, and similar ones earlier in the conflict, are inconsistent with the UN’s neutrality. This violence underscores the need to achieve a cease-fire as soon as possible.
The statement does not explicitly state who is “responsible” for using United Nations installations as weapons depots, but it does confirm that UN schools have been used to store weapons and draw Israeli fire.
“All of these actions, and similar ones earlier in the conflict, are inconsistent with the UN’s neutrality,” indicates that the administration believes either the UN is no longer in control of its own house and should act accordingly, or is complicit in allowing Hamas to use its facilities to inflame a humanitarian disaster and deflect criticism onto Israel.
Those are serious charges, which is probably why they were not explicitly made by NSC spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan.
The Washington Post’s reporting team is less ambiguous about who struck a UN-run school when they noted that “Israeli artillery shells” were responsible for the deaths of 20 people on Wednesday. Their sources buttressing that claim were “Palestinian health officials and the U.N. agency in charge of the school.”
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in charge of the school called Israel’s attack on that facility “a source of universal shame” in a statement.
On Tuesday, however, UNRWA confirmed that caches of rockets had been stored in at least one UN-run Gaza school. That was the third discovery of rockets in education facilities since the start of this conflict. The UN agency condemned unnamed “group or groups” for endangering civilian lives by using schools to store weapons.