A Palestinian looks out from the remains of his house in Beit Hanun, a town in the northern Gaza Strip..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
GAZA - The United Nations has begun investigating attacks that hit UN facilities during last summer's Gaza war and how Hamas came to store weapons at several UN schools, officials said on Wednesday.
A team of UN investigators arrived in Gaza on Tuesday to conduct the inquiry, three months after the conflict ended. They had already met with Israeli representatives in Jerusalem. The investigation is expected to last three weeks.
"They are visiting the affected sites, they are conducting meetings and interviews with people who were involved," Robert Turner, the director of operations for the UN Relief and Works Agency in Gaza told reporters. "It is specifically to look at violations of neutrality of UN installations."
During the operation at least six UN-run facilities were hit by fire, with Israel maintaining that in some cases the facilities were hit by mistake or by errant Hamas projectiles. On a couple of occasions, Hamas weapons were found inside UNRWA facilities.
Both Israel and Hamas, the Islamist group that dominates Gaza, have said they will cooperate fully with the inquiry, which was established by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
However, Israel has said it will not cooperate with a separate inquiry being carried out by the UN's Human Rights Council, which is looking into what the Palestinians allege as Israeli war crimes, saying that it believes the council is biased against Israel
Paul Hirschson, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said Ban's inquiry was "an authentic investigation with potential for us to improve our performance in the course of conflict and learn from our mistakes".
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said while the group was happy to cooperate with both investigations, Israel should be compelled to submit to the Human Rights Council's inquiry.
"Israel's selective process to deal with a committee and boycott another is unacceptable and it damages the reputation of the United Nations before anything else," he said.Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.