The head of the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) in Gaza, John Ging, points to the UN warehouse in Gaza City after it was hit by Israeli strikes on January 15, 2009. The UN on Thursday suspended some of its operations in Gaza after Israeli shells smashed into its compound, setting fire to warehouses of badly-needed aid and prompting outrage from UN chief Ban Ki-moon as he arrived in Israel.
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A firman fights a fire at the UN warehouse in Gaza City after it was hit by Israeli strikes on January 15, 2009. The UN on Thursday suspended some of its operations in Gaza after Israeli shells smashed into its compound, setting fire to warehouses of badly-needed aid and prompting outrage from UN chief Ban Ki-moon as he arrived in Israel.
by AFP/Getty Images
The UN headquarters in Gaza has been set ablaze during some of the heaviest attacks in the 20-day-old Israeli offensive.
The United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) building was being used as a shelter by up to 700 civilians fleeing the bombardment of the Palestinian enclave when it was struck.
Spokesman Chris Gunness said: “Our compound in Gaza has now received three hits, reportedly of white phosphorus. Buildings in the compound are on fire, there are loaded fuel tankers nearby. Three people have been injured.
“It is not clear at this stage if they are UNWRA staff or some of the 700 or so civilians who have taken refuge in our compound.”
The use of white phosphorous, which causes horrific burns on contact with skin, was banned as a weapon of war in civilian areas under the 1980 Geneva protocol.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon called the UN attack an “outrage”. During a meeting with Mr Ban, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert later apologised but said the shelling was prompted by fire from Palestinian gunmen at the compound.
“It is absolutely true that we were attacked from that place,” Mr Olmert said in broadcast remarks.
Elsewhere in Gaza City, an attack on the Al-Shurouq Tower housing the offices of the Reuters news agency and other media organisations was also blamed on an Israeli shell. Witnesses said the southern side of the 13th floor had been hit. Two journalists were wounded.
A hospital was also struck during the attacks but no one was reported hurt. Its administrative offices were set ablaze and patients moved in panic to the ground floor, seeking safety.
The Palestinian death toll has risen to at least 1,073, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry. More than 5,000 have been wounded. Thirteen Israelis – ten soldiers and three civilians – have been killed.
Mr Ban said the number of deaths in the Gaza Strip has become “unbearable”.
Source : Yahoo News