UN team in Gaza Strip and Israel investigation

By staff writers
May 4, 2009

Investigators from the United Nations have begun a week-long meeting in Geneva today (4 May 2009), in preparation for a fact-finding mission to investigate recent events and military incursions in the Gaza Strip and Israel.

Experts are going to the region to look into allegations of war crimes and other human rights abuses during Israel's military offensive in Gaza at the end of 2008.

The UN Human Rights Council established the fact-finding mission in mid-January 2009. This followed Israel's three-week military offensive in Gaza, which claimed many hundreds of lives, injured thousands and destroyed a vast amount of property and economic infrastructure.

Several soldiers and civilians were also killed by Hamas supporters firing rockets into southern Israel, and by IDF 'friendly fire'.

The four-member UN team of experts is led by Richard Goldstone, a widely respected South African judge and former International War Crimes Prosecutor.

UN spokesperson Rolando Gomez says that the team has received assurances the mission can go ahead.

"The idea is for them to springboard from here off to the region... I cannot specify exactly what they intend to do, [or] what day they plan to leave. But, the idea is for them to meet here, at least through until Friday," Gomez commented to reporters.

This is the first UN fact-finding mission that Israel has reportedly approved and therefore marks a significant departure from past practice.

Israeli authorities have previously refused entry to two other missions into the Palestinian territories.

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