Israel said Friday that it will not cooperate with a United Nations team appointed to investigate alleged war crimes committed during its 22-day offensive in Gaza. The UN announced from Geneva Friday that the four-member team, headed by South African war crimes prosecutor Richard Goldstone, will head to the region this weekend, and wants to begin work next week.
The team will remain in the region for one week and was expected to present its report next month.
“This committee has been instructed to find Israel guilty no matter what and there is no point in cooperating with such a masquerade,” Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesman Yigal Palmor told the German Press Agency dpa.
Goldstone has previously said the investigation would go ahead with or without Israeli cooperation. Aides to the jurst say he has been attempting to contact the Israeli government and implied he has not received a response.
The team “will enter Gaza from Egypt via the Rafah crossing point,” the UN fact-finding mission said in a statement, effectively eliminating the need for Israeli approval to reach the enclave.
Both Goldstone and Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi, the President of the Human Rights Council who appointed the team, have said they want the mission to include investigations into possible violations of Israeli human rights as well.
The UN would only say that besides Gaza “other field visits are being planned.”
Israel, and other nations such as Canada, have accused the UN Human Rights Council – which mandated the fact-finding mission in a January resolution passed by 33 in favour, one against and 13 abstentions – of overtly singling it out.
That resolution “is profoundly biased,” Palmor claimed, saying it ordered a probe only into alleged Israeli violations, while ignoring Hamas, the Islamist movement ruling Gaza.
In April, when the full mandate of the team was announced, Goldstone said his “mission will have regard to all human rights violations and international humanitarian law violations committed in Israel, Gaza and the occupied territories.”
This would help the mission “gain the credibility of all sides and be truly, truly independent and produce a report that is fair, balanced and impartial,” Uhomoibhi had said after extending the mandate.
Israel launched the December 27 to January 18 offensive in Gaza in response to rocket attacks by Palestinian militants from the coastal salient at its southern towns and villages.
According to the Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), 1,417 Palestinians, most of them civilians, died in the war, which also caused massive destruction. Thirteen Israelis also died.
Goldstone was the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and was a key legal figure in South Africa’s transition to democracy.
He said that as a Jew, it was “quite a shock” to have been appointed to head the mission.