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Ban voices "outrage" at placement of rockets in UN-administered school in Gaza


UNITED NATIONS, July 23 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon on Wednesday voiced "outrage" at the placement of rockets in a school administered by the world organization in the Gaza Strip, calling it "unacceptable."

"The secretary-general is alarmed to hear that rockets were placed in a UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) school in Gaza and that subsequently these have gone missing," said a statement issued here by Ban's spokesperson.

"He expresses his outrage, and regret, at the placing of weapons in a UN-administered school," said the statement. "By doing so, those responsible are turning schools into potential military targets, and endangering the lives of innocent children, UN employees working in such facilities, and anyone using the UN schools as shelter."

The UN chief noted that this is inconsistent with UN Security Council resolutions on prevention of arms smuggling, and demanded that militants groups who are responsible must stop such actions and should be held accountable for endangering the lives of civilians in this manner.

Ban also asked for a full review of such incidents and how the UN responds in such instances, adding that the United Nations is taking concerted action to increase its vigilance in preventing such episodes from happening again.

"The secretary-general calls on all of those who have any influence over militant groups to send an unmistakable message that this is unacceptable," said the statement.

"Finally, the secretary-general expresses his full support for the tremendous work of the staff of UNRWA, who continue to operate under deeply challenging circumstances," it added.

On July 16, UNRWA discovered approximately 20 rockets hidden in a vacant school in the Gaza Strip.

The agency issued a statement on July 17, saying it had informed the relevant parties and successfully took all necessary measures for the removal of the objects in order to preserve the safety and security of the schools, and had launched a comprehensive investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident.

According to reports, those rockets were handed over to Gaza authorities.

On Tuesday, UNRWA issued a similar statement after employees found a hidden cache of rockets, for the second time within a week, in one of its Gaza schools.

The health ministry in Gaza said in a press statement on Wednesday that the death toll since the beginning of the Israeli operation on the Gaza Strip topped 650 Palestinians along with 4, 300 wounded, adding that most are civilians.

A total of 28 Israeli soldiers and two civilians were killed since the Jewish state started its ground invasion in Gaza on July 8, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees.