Israel Bombs UN Headquarters (Updated)

Oops.

United Nations workers and Palestinian firefighters work to try and put out a fire and save bags of food aid at the United Nations headquarters after it was hit in Israeli bombardment in Gaza City, Thursday, Jan. 15, 2009. Israeli forces shelled the United Nations headquarters in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, setting the compound on fire as U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon was in the area on a mission to end Israel's devastating offensive against the territory's Hamas rulers. Ban expressed "outrage" over the incident.(AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

United Nations workers and Palestinian firefighters work to try and put out a fire and save bags of food aid at the United Nations headquarters after it was hit in Israeli bombardment in Gaza City, Thursday, Jan. 15, 2009. Israeli forces shelled the United Nations headquarters in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, setting the compound on fire as U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon was in the area on a mission to end Israel's devastating offensive against the territory's Hamas rulers. Ban expressed "outrage" over the incident. (AP Photo by Hatem Moussa)


UPDATE (Dave Schuler)

The story on this incident appears to be changing:

JERUSALEM — Israel’s prime minister says the Israeli military fired artillery shells at a U.N. compound in Gaza after militants opened fire from the location.

Ehud Olmert says Israeli forces “were attacked from there and the response was harsh.”

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon expressed “outrage” over the Israeli shelling of the compound Thursday.

At a meeting between the two, Olmert called the shelling a “sad incident” but said militants were responsible. The U.N. denies the Israeli allegation.

The AP has this story marked as “Breaking”.

FILED UNDER: Middle East, Military Affairs, United Nations, World Politics,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. William d'Inger says:

    Rats! From the headline, I was hoping you meant the one in NYC.

  2. Michael says:

    Reports are that they used white phosphorous shells when they did it.

  3. C Stanley says:

    Hah, at first I thought that the ‘oops’ referred to a Freudian slip in the photo caption, but it appears that it was just truncated at an awkward place to end with:
    “U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon was in the area on a mission to end Israel”

  4. Michael says:

    U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon was in the region on a mission to end Israel’s devastating offensive against the territory’s Hamas rulers.

    Better?

  5. Dave Schuler says:

    Probably not the best way to handle the charge that they’re trigger-happy.

  6. markm says:

    Reports are that they used white phosphorous shells when they did it.

    Being that the building looks destroyed versus burnt…i’d say they didn’t do it with white phosphorous shells…not that it matters.

  7. Bithead says:

    Gee.. so does it shock anyone that Hamas would use a UN establishment to launch weapons from? I mean, after you use hospitals and grade schools to launch attacks on Israel from, how much of a stretch is this?

  8. Bithead says:

    Ban Ki-moon was in the area on a mission to end Israel

    Occasionally, the truth comes out.
    (Chuckle)

  9. Ok, so whom do you believe? If Hamas was using the UN building as a launching site does that make it a legitimate target? Has the UN chosen sides in its efforts to broker a “cease-fire”?

    Am I not supposed to read between the lines here?

  10. Michael says:

    Gee.. so does it shock anyone that Hamas would use a UN establishment to launch weapons from?

    It wouldn’t surprise me one bit. However, since Israel is calling this a “grave mistake”, it doesn’t sound that this was the case.

    If Hamas was using the UN building as a launching site does that make it a legitimate target?

    Absolutely it does. Just like anybody wearing a Red Cross emblem who shoots at you is a legitimate target. The UN can not allow Hamas to use it’s buildings to launch operations if they want to keep their protected status.

  11. Michael says:

    Being that the building looks destroyed versus burnt…i’d say they didn’t do it with white phosphorous shells…not that it matters.

    Given the picture and caption about firefighters trying to extinguish a fire and save food from a burning warehouse, I’d say it is being burnt as well.

  12. Fredw says:

    Funny how everyone seems to take it for granted that hamas was firing from the UN compound.

    Anyone here remember the South Park episode where they made it illegal to go hunting; you could only shoot animals, in self defense, if they threatened you?

  13. markm says:

    Being that the building looks destroyed versus burnt…i’d say they didn’t do it with white phosphorous shells…not that it matters.

    Given the picture and caption about firefighters trying to extinguish a fire and save food from a burning warehouse, I’d say it is being burnt as well.

    True dat but splodey munitions break stuff and can cause fire. WP rounds don’t typically break stuff. In looking at the pic it looked to me that stuff was broken and toasty. If it’s just toasty with no brokey…..meh, still doesn’t matter either way.

  14. Phil Smith says:

    The article seemed to indicate that the fire was caused by fuel stores igniting.

  15. Michael says:

    True dat but splodey munitions break stuff and can cause fire.

    Can, if there’s something flammable enough nearby. They’re not generally known for setting much ablaze though.

    WP rounds don’t typically break stuff. In looking at the pic it looked to me that stuff was broken and toasty.

    I didn’t say WP was the only thing they used. Presumably regular munitions were used as well. I don’t even know if WP was used, I’m just saying that someone is reporting it as such.

  16. Michael says:

    Okay, now Olmert is saying that Israel was fired on from the UN headquarters:

    Ban ki-Moon called it an “outrage” and Olmert apologized to him, 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,” Olmert said in broadcast remarks.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20090115/ts_nm/us_palestinians_israel_265

    That’s a far cry from calling it a “grave mistake”.

  17. another matt says:

    markm,

    I’m still chuckling at your “splodey” explanation. Well written.

  18. Floyd says:

    “Ban ki-Moon”,… sounds like a good idea.
    If Hamas was firing from there, it was no Embassy, but rather an Hamas stronghold.
    The U.N. should not open an Embassy that they will not hold. Does anyone notice that Hamas must have attacked and occupied the Embassy before any alleged Israeli action? Or did ki-Moon invite them in to provide a propaganda advantage?

  19. tom p says:

    The U.N. should not open an Embassy that they will not hold. Does anyone notice that Hamas must have attacked and occupied the Embassy before any alleged Israeli action?

    C’mon Floyd, you are better than this. First off, the UN does not have embassies… It is not a country. It had a headquarters, for supplying hamanitarian aid. Second, did they even have armed guards? If they did, were they faced with a situation where armed Hamas militants came in and said “We will kill all these civilians unless you put down your guns”?

    The question is, was Hamas actually there, and if so, why did the IDF fire on it with artillery knowing there would be ample civilian casualties?

    Your blanket acceptance of the IDF explanation while blaming the UN shows a considerable lack of appreciation for the circumstances under which the UN operates.

    As James said, “Ooops.”

  20. Floyd says:

    tom p;
    Much of what you say has merit, I am inclined to believe any witness against the U.N. and certainly ANY witness against Hamas.Let’s just say that I would not be allowed to serve on any truly impartial jury, convened to accuse either of them.

    Actually I seriously doubt the very existence of an adequate number of informed members of humanity to convene such a body.

    My use of the term “embassy” notwithstanding, I have been exposed to adequate information to understand and come to a layman’s reasoned conclusion as to the veracity and operating circumstances of each of the aforementioned parties.
    Neither has shown a single incident in which respect for plain truth trumps dedication to a despicable agenda.
    Even though I have no connection to any party involved in this conflict, I make no claim to impartiality.
    Thank you for your kind efforts to dispel my well established prejudice in this matter

  21. Michael says:

    The question is, was Hamas actually there, and if so, why did the IDF fire on it with artillery knowing there would be ample civilian casualties?

    I would imagine that the IDF has blanket orders to return fire whenever fired upon. I don’t think the UN headquarters was put on a list of targets to shell.