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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

UNRWA denies- and Hamas confirms- ambulances confiscated

From JPost: (h/t t34zakat)

Hamas on Monday claimed to have confiscated three ambulances that were imported into the Gaza Strip for UNRWA several weeks ago, backing up an earlier IDF claim that the ambulances had been seized.

The deputy director of UNRWA...

The deputy director of UNRWA’s Gaza office, Christer Nordal, stands in front of ambulances in the UNRWA compound in Gaza. Spokesman Christopher Gunness said this picture, distributed yesterday, showed that recent media reports of stolen ambulances were false.

But UNRWA, which last week denied an earlier Jerusalem Post article quoting IDF claims that the ambulances had been confiscated, reiterated Monday that the reports were false, said that the ambulances were safe and sound in its Gaza compound, and even distributed a photograph of one of its officials, Christer Nordal, posing with what it said were the vehicles in question.

According to a statement released by the Hamas-controlled Gaza Crossings Directorate on Monday, the ambulances were confiscated in late July because UNRWA did not have proper documentation to import them into Gaza via the Kerem Shalom crossing.

In an August 4 e-mail obtained by the Post, UNRWA official Jodi Clark wrote to Israeli defense officials to state that the ambulances had been "impounded by the authorities in Gaza." The e-mail was sent by Clark to several Israeli defense officials as well as to John Ging, the director of UNRWA, and Nordal, his deputy. The e-mail later circulated throughout the Defense Ministry.

"The three ambulances we imported into Gaza two weeks ago are still impounded by the authorities in Gaza and we continue to negotiate their release which is not going well at this stage," Clark wrote in the e-mail.

She went on to ask the Israeli defense officials for their assistance in coordinating the transfer of three new ambulances into Gaza, but through the Erez crossing, "to avoid the authorities having the opportunity to seize the vehicles from us."Asked about Clark's e-mail, and about the official Hamas-run Gaza Crossings Directorate's claim to be holding the ambulances, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said that the e-mail had been recalled by Clark immediately after being sent and that the story based on its content was untrue. The Post was able to confirm that the e-mail was indeed recalled.

"The e-mail was recalled within minutes because the information contained in it was wrong," Gunness said. "The story is a house of cards based on information that was wrong. We have circulated pictures which prove it was wrong."