Thursday, February 5, 2009

U.N. Chief Sets Bar High in Aftermath of Gaza

By Thalif Deen

"UNITED NATIONS, Feb 4 (IPS) - When Ban Ki-moon visited Gaza after the destructive bombing of a U.N. compound last month, the usually reticent secretary-general lashed out at the Israelis, accusing them of using "excessive force" and describing the assault as "an outrageous and totally unacceptable attack against the United Nations".

The harsh comments came as a surprise because a day earlier he had told reporters in Jerusalem that Israel "is a responsible member of the United Nations"- despite the continued violations of humanitarian law by the Israelis and the killings of over 1,300 Palestinians, mostly civilians, in the 22-day conflict.

But the overwhelming devastation of the U.N. compound - considered a safe haven for refugees fleeing the conflict - probably left a lasting negative impression on the secretary-general.

At a press conference in Geneva last week, he continued to pummel the Israelis when he told reporters he was "very much frustrated and upset and angered by what I had seen (in Gaza)."

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