Goldstone says UN Gaza investigation nearing its final phase

A UN-backed investigation into Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip is its final phase, international investigator Richard Goldstone said Tuesday. He noted, however, that it was too soon to conclude that war crimes were committed during the conflict. Goldstone also added that his team regretted Israeli authorities having blocked it from visiting Israel and the West Bank, but that testimony from victims from those areas was heard in Geneva. Goldstone said he regards the mandate of the fact-finding mission as requiring an independent investigation into all alleged violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the context of the Dec. 27-Jan. 18 military operations. "The testimonies we have heard from victims and witnesses ... have been very difficult to hear, but I believe it is important that we listen to these stories," said Goldstone.