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May 25, 2021 10:39 am

UNRWA Gaza Director Expresses Regret After Saying IDF Strikes Were ‘Precise’ and ‘Sophisticated,’ Did Not Target Civilians

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United Nations Relief and Works Agency Gaza Director Matthias Schmale during an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 news. Photo: Screenshot

The director of the Gazan branch of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) expressed “regret” on Tuesday for any offense he caused in a recent interview with Israeli media, in which he agreed with the Israeli military’s assertion that its strikes in the Gaza conflict were “very precise” and did not generally hit civilian targets.

The official, Matthias Schmale, had told Israel’s Channel 12 on Saturday that he “would not dispute” the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) claim that airstrikes during its recent Operation Guardian of the Walls in Gaza were “very precise.”

“I’m not a military expert but I would not dispute that,” Schmale said. “I also have the impression that there is a huge sophistication in the way the Israeli military strikes struck, over the last eleven days, so that’s not my issue.”

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

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The IDF says it struck about 1,600 Hamas military targets during the conflict, including 340 rocket launchers and more than 60 miles of underground terror tunnels. Hamas fired about 4,340 rockets were from the Gaza Strip toward Israeli territory, with 640 falling within Gaza.

On Tuesday, in a series of tweets, the UNRWA official expressed regret for the remarks, which he said “offended & hurt those who had family members & friends killed & injured during the war that has just ended.”

“I express my utmost respect & solidarity with my UNRWA colleagues & their families & friends who suffered immense pain & loss,” he continued. “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.”

Asked in the Channel 12 interview Saturday whether Gaza was now facing a shortage of critical supplies, Schmale answered in the negative.

“During the eleven days of war, we did not run out of food, water and supplies. We would have if Kerem Shalom and the border would have stayed closed. The border is open now since yesterday, and goods supplies are coming back in, so from my point of view, there is no acute or serious shortage of medical supplies, food or water as long as this now continues to come in,” he said.

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