UN team probing Gaza war to visit Strip

Experts will also tour Israel's south, vow to look into rights violations both by the IDF and by Hamas.

richard goldstone 248 88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
richard goldstone 248 88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Days after Israel blasted a United Nations report claiming the IDF had failed to take adequate precautions to ensure that UN installations and civilians in the Gaza Strip would not be harmed during Operation Cast Lead, a UN team set up to probe alleged war crimes announced plans to visit Israel and the Gaza Strip. The fact-finding mission appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate rights violations during the Gaza war also renewed a call for Israel to support its investigation. Richard Goldstone, who heads the four-member mission, stressed that his team would adopt a law-based approach in preparing its report to council in July, and would investigate alleged rights violations by both Israel and Hamas. "I would like to emphasize that we will focus our investigation not on political considerations, but on an objective and impartial analysis of compliance of the parties to the conflict with their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law, especially their responsibility to ensure the protection of civilians and non-combatants," said Goldstone, a former UN war crimes prosecutor in a statement issued on Friday. "I believe that an objective assessment of the issues is in the interest of all parties, will promote a culture of accountability and could serve to promote greater peace and security in the region," the South African judge said. The mission intends to conduct visits to southern Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, and has requested the cooperation of the Israeli government. The other members of the team include Christine Chinkin, professor of international law at the London School of Economics; Hina Jilani, an advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan; and Col. (ret.) Desmond Travers of Ireland, a member of the board of directors of the Institute for International Criminal Investigations (IICI). On Wednesday, President Shimon Peres told reporters that IDF forces did not intentionally aim at civilians or UN facilities during Operation Cast Lead. However, he acknowledged that Israel might have made "some mistakes." Speaking after a private meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Peres repeated the government's position that it would not accept "one word" of the UN report released Tuesday on the attacks on UN facilities during the recent fighting. The report, commissioned by Ban in February, blamed Israel for failing to take adequate precautions to ensure that UN installations and civilians sheltering in them would be protected from shells or other fire intended for Hamas terrorists. According to the report, the IDF was responsible for fatalities and damage in six cases, including a strike that killed people sheltering at a Gaza school.