UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations has agreed to deliver to Gaza cargo aboard three aid ships seized by Israel on May 31 and has won the consent of Israel and the cargo's Turkish owners to do so, a U.N. envoy said on Tuesday.
Israel's navy took control of a six-ship convoy trying to run the Jewish state's blockade of Gaza and forced it to dock in Israeli ports. Nine people were killed aboard one vessel, the Turkish-registered Mavi Mara, provoking an international outcry. Israel said its commandos acted in self-defense.
U.N. Middle East envoy Robert Serry told the Security Council the United Nations was ready to take responsibility for delivery of the aid cargo “on an exceptional basis.”
The world body “has obtained the consent of the cargo owners of the three Turkish-registered vessels to take possession of and responsibility for the entire cargo and ensure its timely distribution in Gaza for humanitarian purposes as determined by the United Nations,” Serry said.
“The government of Israel has agreed to release the entire cargo to the United Nations in Gaza, again on the understanding that it is for the United Nations to determine its appropriate humanitarian use in Gaza,” he added.
Serry said he had reason to believe that the “de facto authorities” in Gaza — a reference to the Hamas militant group that controls the Palestinian territory — would allow the United Nations to determine where the aid went.
Israel has blockaded the territory since Hamas took it over three years ago, allowing in only what it considers essential goods. An Israeli cabinet minister said on Tuesday that the Jewish state is examining ways to ease the blockade.
The U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian refugees runs an extensive aid and education operation in Gaza.
Serry, who was making a regular monthly report to the Security Council on the Middle East, said the United Nations would begin the distribution effort as soon as possible.
He said the United Nations had not so far been approached about the cargo aboard other diverted aid ships, including the Rachel Corrie, boarded by the Israeli navy on June 5 and sailed to the port of Ashdod, but would try to help if it was.
Serry also made clear that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's proposal for a full international inquiry into the May 31 storming of the aid flotilla was in addition to the investigation Israel itself plans to carry out.
Israel's cabinet on Monday approved the Israeli inquiry, whose panel will include two foreign observers.
The United Nations said on Monday the Israeli probe “could fit with” Ban's proposal, which it said remained on the table.
“The two (inquiries) combined would fully meet the international community's expectation for a credible and impartial investigation,” Serry said. “The two approaches are complementary.”
Diplomats say Ban wants a neutral inquiry panel led by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer and including Israeli and Turkish representatives.
Serry said that during a closed-door discussion in the Security Council on Tuesday, “I think there was support expressed for what the secretary-general tries to do.” AGENCIES