By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — Former President Mary Robinson was shaken after a gunman opened fire on her convoy of cars as she toured the divided West Bank city of Hebron on Sunday in her capacity as UN human rights commissioner.
A bullet from an unidentified gunman hit the lead car in the three-car convoy but no one was injured and the UN party continued its tour.
After a stop in the town, Robinson had just got back in the minivan she was traveling in when the shot rang out.
"I actually saw the trace of it passing us and it lodged in the car in front. I think it was a warning shot and we got out of there quite fast."
She said the unarmed UN observer team she was with had never been fired on before. "They were very shocked."
Never miss an issue of The Irish Echo
Subscribe to one of our great value packages.
Robinson said she did not know the source of the shot but she had been assured the Isr’li authorities would investigate it.
"I think it may be borne in mind that the Palestinians want an observer force," she said. "I was with an unarmed, monitoring, international observer team and I think they would hardly given us a warning to go away because they want more of that."
She said it was important to visit the Isr’li-controlled section of the city.
"There are about 400 Isr’li settlers there but there are about 40,000 Palestinian people who live in that part of the city," Robinson said.
"It’s quite extraordinary. There are 2,000 soldiers protecting the 400 settlers and there is a total curfew on the movement of 40,000 Palestinians. This is what I was being shown.
"We were driving through a sort of ghost town with heavy military presence but settlers walking around and settlers coming out of the schools. But the schools for the 40,000 have been closed for the last six weeks."
She will meet the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, in Gaza later in the week and will then travel to Jordan and Egypt.
She said her fact-finding tour of the Middle East is aimed at highlighting the human-rights dimension of the need for a durable peace in the region.
"The situation is extremely serious," Robinson said. "All I can do is be a direct witness, bring home the seriousness of it, focus on the human rights and hope that the political consequences will be taken on board by the international community.
"I think it is absolutely imperative that the situation of the Palestinians is fully appreciated," she said.