Is­rael agrees to graves pay-out

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY LEON SY­MONS

IS­RAEL HAS fi­nally agreed to pay for the restora­tion of a Bri­tish war­graves ceme­tery in Gaza City, dam­aged when it launched an op­er­a­tion af­ter the ab­duc­tion of Cor­po­ral Gi­lad Shalit in June 2006.

A me­mo­rial stone, perime­ter wall, trees and a num­ber of head­stones were dam­aged in that op­er­a­tion and in a sec­ond in­ci­dent a week later.

Bri­tain is­sued a for­mal com­plaint af­ter the Is­raelis ig­nored a let­ter from its em­bassy in Tel Aviv. Af­ter ini­tially deny­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for the dam­age for months, Is­rael has now agreed to pay NIS 145,000 (£20,600).

David Parker, di­rec­tor of in­for­ma­tion at the Com­mon­wealth War Graves Com­mis­sion, said: “We were very pleased that the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment was pre­pared to pay com­pen­sa­tion for the dam­age to the ceme­tery.

“We were also grate­ful for sup­port from the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment, its em­bassy and other gov­ern­ments in press­ing the claim.”

A to­tal of 3,686 Com­mon­wealth ser­vice­men are buried in the ceme­tery, most of them Bri­tish in­fantry­men who fought in 1917. There are also 210 graves from World War II and 30 post-war.

Ac­cord­ing to the Daily Tele­graph, which high­lighted the is­sue, the ini­tial in­ci­dent oc­curred when Is­rael launched Op­er­a­tion Sum­mer Rains in re­tal­i­a­tion for the kid­nap­ping of Cor­po­ral Shalit, who is still miss­ing.

Part of the perime­ter wall was de­stroyed, along with head­stones and olive trees, by bull­doz­ers clear­ing un­der­growth look­ing for Pales­tinian mil­i­tants.

The sec­ond in­ci­dent in­volved an op­er­a­tion in nearby Beit Ha­noun, when can­non fire from an at­tack he­li­copter hit a group me­mo­rial stone and left 24 oth­ers dam­aged by shrap­nel.

Pales­tini­ans at­tack the ceme­tery in 2004 in protest at the treat­ment of Mus­lim pris­on­ers by US troops in Iraq.

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