Matthias Schmale, head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), admitted that Israel’s retaliation against Hamas was very “sophisticated” and “precise”. This quite angered the Hamas terrorist group and other Palestinian organizations, prompting subsequent apologies from the UNRWA chief.
Schmale was interviewed on Sunday on Israeli Channel 12, where he was asked about the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) claim about the accuracy of military operations. The UNRWA chief replied: “I’m not a military expert but I would not dispute that. I also have the impression that there is a huge sophistication in the way the Israeli military struck over the last 11 days.”
The UNRWA chief also claimed that shortages of food, medicine or water in Gaza have diminished following Israel’s reopening of the crossings into the Palestinian territory.
However, Schmale in the same interview also criticized Israel, stating that this year’s attacks were more “cruel” relative to those of 2014.
“So yes they did not hit, with some exceptions, civilian targets, but the viciousness and ferocity of the strikes was heavily felt,” the UNRWA chief said, while adding the numbers of those killed and underage victims.
“So the precision was there, but there was an unacceptable and unbearable loss of life on the civilian side,”
The statements, despite the criticisms exposed, are surprising, because UNRWA, a UN agency dedicated to Palestinian refugees, is accused of broadcasting anti-Semitic propaganda in its school facilities.
During the month of April, a month before the conflict between Israel and Hamas began, U.S. President Joe Biden restored U.S. funding to UNRWA which the last few years had many financial problems due to the Trump administration cutting off the flow of money to the agency.
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo once accused UNRWA of helping to perpetuate the problems in the Middle East rather than helping to resolve the conflicts. This claim, in fact, was one of the reasons for cutting off the financial flow to the agency. The Israeli government has also been highly critical of the organization.
UNRWA chief apologizes for his statements on Israeli TV
Despite Matthias Schmale’s emphasis that civilian casualties in Palestine were regrettable, Hamas and other groups sharply criticized the UNRWA head.
His “comments are a complete distortion in favor of the Zionists, including an attempt to exonerate the Occupation for the killing of 254 Palestinians, more than 40 percent of them children, women and the elderly,” Hamas said in a statement.
The terrorist group has been accused by the Israeli army and by several media reports of using the Palestinian population as human shields.
In this conflict it could be seen that the Israeli military, before carrying out a targeted attack on Hamas installations located in civilian buildings, called Palestinian citizens beforehand and gave them one hour to evacuate the place.
Hamas was not the only group to criticize Schmale. In a statement released Tuesday, May 26, several Palestinian human rights groups said the comments “completely ignored the crimes committed during the latest Israeli offensive against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip.”
The criticism and pressure prompted the UNRWA chief to publicly apologize for his statements on his Twitter account, but he did not fail to assert that the Israeli military was very accurate in its operations.
“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” he said in his first tweet in a series of eight.
“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 … Military precision and sophistication are never a justification for war,” he said