U.N. Palestinian Refugee Head Apologizes for Saying IDF Strikes ‘Precise’ and ‘Sophisticated’

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

The head of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees apologized Tuesday for telling Israel’s Channel 12 in an interview Israeli military strikes in the Gaza Strip were “precise” and “sophisticated.”

Gaza director of United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Matthias Schmale’s remarks sparked outrage from the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group, which accused him of being a “spokesperson for the occupation army” who was exonerating Israel over the deaths of 254 Palestinians.

After acknowledging the IDF’s strikes were “very precise,” Schmale told Channel 12: “I also have the impression that there is a huge sophistication in the way the Israeli military struck over the last 11 days.”

He also said while at least 1,000 residential units were destroyed, there were not currently any shortages of food, medicine or water in Gaza as Israel had reopened the crossings.

“I’ve had many colleagues describe to me that they feel that, in comparison with the 2014 war, this time the strikes felt much more vicious in terms of their impact,” Schmale said. “So yes, they didn’t hit – with some exceptions – civilian targets, but the viciousness, ferocity of the strikes was heavily felt.”

More than 4,000 terror rockets were launched at Israel from the Hamas-ruling Gaza Strip over a period of 11 days.  According to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, more than 230 Palestinians were killed in retaliatory strikes by the IDF against terror targets, 59 of them children.

Israel says more than 150 of those killed were terrorists from Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups. Many, including children, were also killed by errant Hamas rockets. At least 450 rockets were misfired and landed within Gaza itself.

Thirteen people in Israel, including a five-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl, were killed by rockets, and hundreds more were injured.

In a joint statement, Palestinian rights groups condemned Schmale’s remarks and said they “completely ignored the crimes committed during the latest Israeli offensive against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip.”

Schmale issued an apology later Tuesday, saying his remarks were taken out of context and manipulated in favor of Israel.

“This is blatant manipulation of my interview, I did NOT say the IDF operated within the laws of war,” Schmale wrote on Twitter. “Killing more than 200 civilians including innocent women & children is NOT acting within laws of war. There must be independent investigation & accountability for those actions.”
“No one has forced me into an apology,” Schmale added. “Responsible leaders listen carefully to people they serve – in my case Palestine refugees; civilians, not political or military actors – and accept and correct errors of judgment.”

“Recent remarks I made on Israeli TV have offended & hurt those who had family members & friends killed & injured during the war that has just ended. I truly regret to have caused them pain, & reiterate following points I have made through countless interviews & tweets,” he said in a separate tweet.

“There is no justification whatsoever for killing civilians. Any civilian killed is one too many. It is simply unbearable that so many innocent people have paid with their lives,” he said, adding “military precision and sophistication are never a justification for war.”

“Many people were killed or have been severely injured by direct strikes or collateral damage from strikes. In a place as densely populated as Gaza, any strike will have huge damaging effects on people and buildings,” he concluded.

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