Middle East

Israeli military calls for investigation after releasing video showing armed men at UN facility in Gaza

By Jeremy Diamond, CNN

Jerusalem CNN  — 

The Israeli military is calling on the United Nations to investigate the presence of armed militants at a UN facility in southern Gaza after releasing video that shows armed men at the facility.

Drone footage published by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on Tuesday, and geolocated by CNN, shows the armed men near UN-marked vehicles at an UNRWA logistics facility in Rafah, which served as a key aid distribution point. The Israeli military said the footage was filmed on May 11, three days before the IDF released it. CNN cannot independently verify the date the video was filmed.

UNRWA, the main UN agency operating in Gaza, said it is “unable to verify the authenticity or the content” of the video, but said it is “likely” that the video shows an UNRWA warehouse that was evacuated last week.

“UNRWA condemns the use of UN facilities by any party to the conflict for military/fighting purposes. We have repeatedly called for independent investigations & accountability for the blatant disregard of UN staff lives, premises and operations,” UNRWA spokeswoman Juliette Touma said in statement. “We reiterate our call on all parties to the conflict to respect the sanctity and neutrality of UN installations. Under no circumstances should anyone have or use weapons in a UN facility.”

Touma said that UNRWA staff were ordered to evacuate the facility last week “for their safety” following Israeli military evacuation orders for parts of eastern Rafah. Touma said UNRWA staff left vehicles and flour at the facility.

The Israeli military said COGAT, the Israeli agency charged with coordinating humanitarian aid to Gaza, shared the military’s findings with “senior officials in the international community,” including UN officials.

“This is a troubling phenomenon,” IDF spokesman Maj. Nir Dinar told CNN. “It’s not the first time we are witnessing armed personnel present in UN facilities and vehicles.”

Dinar said that Israeli military “didn’t strike the militants and vehicles because it was clear that they are in UN facility and are near UN personnel.” The IDF has, however, carried out strikes at UN facilities in the past, including at the same eastern Rafah facility in March, according to a video of the strike released by the IDF at the time.

It’s unclear if the armed men in the IDF drone footage are part of Hamas or other militant groups in Gaza.

The Israeli military released the video one day after a United Nations worker was killed and another injured when the UN-marked vehicle they were driving in was struck in Rafah. The United Nations said they believe a tank fired on the vehicle, and the Israeli military has said the incident is “under review.”

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