Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
In July last year, the United Nations submitted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel a claim for reimbursement for the losses that the United Nations had sustained in a number of incidents that occurred during the Gaza conflict of 27 December 2008 to 19 January 2009.
And since that time, discussions have taken place between the United Nations and Israel further to that claim. And as a result of those discussions, an arrangement has now been finalized between the United Nations and Israel.
Pursuant to that arrangement, the Government of Israel has made a payment of $10.5 million to the United Nations in respect of the losses sustained by the United Nations in the incidents that were investigated by the United Nations Headquarters Board of Inquiry early last year.
With this payment, the United Nations has agreed that the financial issues relating to those incidents referred to in the terms of reference of the Board of Inquiry are concluded. The Secretary-General would like to record the cooperative approach that the Government of Israel has shown in the course of the discussions that led to this settlement.
The money will not itself repair the buildings and facilities damaged. For that, the unhindered and expedited passage of actual cement and other building materials is urgently required. As with reconstruction generally in war-damaged Gaza, we call again here for the lifting of the closure, so that the people of Gaza can rebuild their homes and their economy.
That’s what I have for you at the moment. And I’m happy to take any questions you might have on this topic. On Haiti, I think clearly we’re going to have people right on the spot. So, let me take any questions you might have on what I’ve just mentioned or any other topic that’s related to this.
Just very briefly, Jean Victor will be briefing on the General Assembly at the very end.
**Questions and Answers
Question: The UN driver who was killed. Is the money that Israel paid, is that being used to compensate his family?
Spokesperson: No. No United Nations personnel were killed in the seven incidents that were the subject of the Organization’s claim. A total of eleven people were injured in those seven incidents, but none of them seriously. An amount was included in the Organization’s claim in respect of those injuries.
But as for the other two incidents, a caretaker at a United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) school was killed in one of them. And it has subsequently been confirmed that he was not United Nations personnel. However, the Organization has provided material assistance to his family.
Question: [inaudible] 6 million, but I don’t remember…?
Spokesperson: No, that’s not correct. I can tell you details: The Board of Inquiry estimated the property damage sustained by the United Nations in the incidents that it investigated was in the region of $11,200,000. And the Board noted in its Report that this figure was based on estimates and it emphasized that further expert evaluation was required. And so, the Organization retained the services of an independent loss adjuster to review the losses that the Organization had sustained and also to review the valuation methodologies that had been used in reaching those estimates. And as a result of that review, the figure that the Organization included in its claim was some three-quarters of a million dollars less than that mentioned in the Board’s report.
Israel made the payment while maintaining its point of view that it was not legally responsible for any of the incidents that were investigated by the Board of Inquiry. The United Nations, however, accepted the payment while maintaining its point of view that Israel was indeed legally responsible for the seven incidents for which the Board had found Israel responsible.
Question: Martin, can you, you mentioned the material assistance to the family of this one individual -- the caretaker. Is that the only case where the UN has done that involving individuals injured or killed in the fighting? And can you tell us how much?
Spokesperson: The Organization did not claim any sum in respect of the deaths and injuries caused to non-United Nations personnel, because there was no lawful basis for doing that. In the case of, as I mentioned, in the case of the caretaker, the Organization has provided material assistance, and has apparently given a job to another member of the family, for example.
I’m not aware of other cases like that.
Question: [inaudible] is there sort of a dollar amount or is the material support thing is like the job for the family member?
Spokesperson: I’m not aware of the full details. I am aware that a job has been given to another member of his family.
Question: [inaudible] the caretaker’s family?
Spokesperson: No. I have already said that the money was to cover seven incidents and no United Nations personnel were killed in those seven incidents, which were the subject of the Organization’s claim. And 11 people were injured in those incidents, but none of them seriously. And the amount in the Organization’s claim –- an amount in the Organization’s claim relates to those injuries. In other words, to the eleven people who were not seriously injured in those incidents, okay? So, you need to keep…
Spokesperson: It says here that an amount was included in the Organization’s claim in respect of those injuries. That is money that’s aimed at the… A part of it, I don’t know the amount, a part of it is aimed at the eleven people who were injured.
Question: [inaudible] that they actually fired these missiles and they hit those buildings?
Spokesperson: Israel did not admit that it was legally responsible for any of the incidents that were investigated by the Board of Enquiry. But the United Nations, for its part, maintained its position that Israel was legally responsible for the losses sustained in the seven incidents for which the Board of Enquiry had found Israel responsible. But, as often happens in such cases, the United Nations and Israel agreed to put the question of legal responsibility to one side for the purposes of settling the Organization’s claim.