UN war crimes inquiry on Gaza winds up hearings

UN war crimes investigators yesterday wound up four days of public hearings about Israel’s invasion of the Gaza Strip after taking testimony from both Israelis and Palestinians.

Richard Goldstone, a former chief UN war crimes prosecutor heading the four-person inquiry team, said he expected to submit its report to the UN Human Rights Council next month.

Lieut Col Raymond Lane, chief instructor in the Irish Defence Forces School, reported to the inquiry about weapons used in the conflict. “Through our studies we found no actual proof a Dime round was used,” he said, referring to dense inert metal explosives.

But referring to samples containing heavy metals such as tungsten and cobalt, analysed in a forensics laboratory in Dublin, he added: “I am of the view that some weapons systems used in the conflict definitely had some Dime components.”

White phosphorous could provide cover for troops but also caused burns, he said. “It is horrible stuff.”

Gazan militants had used low-quality rockets, which lack a guidance system and take about 90 seconds to set up and fire, according to Lieut Col Lane. “They are basically fire and forget.”

According to a Palestinian rights group, 1,417 people including 926 civilians were killed during Israel’s December 27th to January 18th offensive in the Hamas-ruled territory of 1.5 million people. Israel lost 10 soldiers and three civilians in the fighting, which it launched with the declared aim of halting cross-border rocket fire by militants. It has estimated 1,166 Palestinians were killed, 295 of them civilians.

The expert team held twin sessions of hearings in Gaza and Geneva, where the UN Human Rights Council is based. — (Reuters)