Harvey Morris
The Financial Times
February 11, 2009 - 1:00am

Ban Ki-moon, United Nations secretary-general, has signalled that the UN intends to hold Israel to account for attacks on its facilities in Gaza regardless of the outcome of Tuesday’s election.

As Israelis voted on Tuesday, Mr Ban announced he had appointed a senior human rights troubleshooter to probe the destruction of UN facilities in Gaza during the 22 days of Israel’s so-called “Operation Cast Lead”.
He said Ian Martin, his outgoing envoy to Nepal and a former head of Amnesty International, would head a five-member inquiry panel. UN officials said the panel would include international lawyers and a senior military expert capable of assessing the conduct of the Israeli armed forces.

The outgoing government of Ehud Olmert promised Mr Ban it would provide the results of its own inquiry into the alleged targeting of UN-run schools and other UN facilities. The results of an Israeli probe are still pending.

Mr Martin’s panel will look only at damage to UN facilities rather than the wider impact of an Israeli offensive in which more than 1,300 Palestinians were killed and 5,400 wounded.

It will be up to Mr Ban whether to present the results of the inquiry to the UN Security Council. If he decided to do so – and if the conclusions were critical of Israel – the 15 members of the council, including the US, would then have to determine what further action to take,

The results of the investigation led by Mr Martin, who is British, are expected between four and six weeks. UN officials said the timing of their publication was not dependent on prior publication of the results of any Israeli probe.

Israel will be asked in the coming days to provide visas for Mr Martin and his team to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories. UN officials have yet to formalise the terms of the inquiry, which could include demands for compensation for the millions of dollars of damage incurred in the course of the Israeli offensive.


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