UN launches inquiry into Israeli bombings of its Gaza sites

The United Nations has launched a formal inquiry into the bombings of UN installations and convoys during Operation Cast Lead. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement issued by his spokesperson that the team would leave soon for the Middle East and added that he expected "full cooperation of all parties concerned." A spokeswoman for Israel's mission to the UN said it had no immediate comment on the investigation. The team, led by Ian Martin, will review all incidents that resulted in death or injuries to UN staff or damage to UN facilities between December 27 and January 19. Martin, a Briton, was formerly the head of Amnesty International and has held a variety of human rights posts at the UN, most recently in Nepal. He is joined by two legal experts, Larry Johnson of the US and Sinha Basnayake of Sri Lanka, as well as by military expert Lt.-Col. Patrick Eichenberger of Switzerland. Ban, who has repeatedly condemned the attacks as "outrageous," initially said he would wait for an Israeli investigation but announced last week that he was appointing his own investigators after repeated requests from the Palestinians for an independent investigation into the bombings. The UN admitted earlier this month that a clerical error prompted officials to wrongly accuse Israel of shelling a refugee-packed school run by its Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. The IDF shell hit outside the school, killing people in the street but not inside the UN compound. The strike drew sharp criticism within the UN and prompted calls for Israelis to be prosecuted for war crimes until the initial account was called into question in a Toronto Globe and Mail article, in which survivors of the attack said the school had not been hit. Meanwhile, A delegation of British parliamentarians arrived in Gaza on Sunday to assess the situation in the Strip following Operation Cast Lead. The delegation is led by Labor MP Richard Burden, chairman of the Britain-Palestine All Party Parliamentary Group. The MPs will spend three days in Gaza after the IDF granted them access on Sunday. They said they want to speak directly to Gazans, take eye witness accounts as and visit international aid operations and UK-funded reconstruction projects. In the wake of the Gaza conflict, Burden tabled a parliamentary motion criticizing the BBC and Sky News for refusing to broadcast a charity appeal for funds for Gaza. During the fighting itself he tabled a motion criticizing Israel's "overwhelmingly disproportionate use of force in Gaza," and called for the European Union to condition trade agreements with Israel on Israel's respecting human rights. Burden has also signed a motion in support of Holocaust Memorial Day. Jonny Paul contributed to this report.