UN obtains 'evidence' of Israeli war crimes in Gaza

A UN fact-finding mission investigating reports of Israeli war crimes has obtained documents that allegedly confirm Tel Aviv misconduct during the war on Gaza, Aljazeera reported.

Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip have provided the fifteen-member mission headed by South African Jewish jurist Richard Goldstone with documents, photos, and other materials considered "evidence of Israeli violations".

Tel Aviv in late December unleashed Operation Cast Lead upon the territory of 1.5 million Palestinians allegedly in response to Hamas retaliatory rocket attacks on Israel.

The three-week Israeli offensive on the tiny coastal strip killed nearly 1,350 Palestinians and wounded around 5,450 others -- most of them civilians.

The onslaught cost the Palestinian economy at least $1.6 billion, destroying some 4,000 residential buildings and damaging 16,000 other houses.

The use of controversial flesh-eating weapons against civilians and UN buildings also prompted universal condemnation and calls for war crime charges to be brought against Tel Aviv.

Days after the attacks, the democratically elected leaders of Hamas declared that they had documented irrefutable proof of Israeli war crimes inside the Gaza Strip.

"We will use that [proof] to build a case against the Israeli political and military leaders as a criminal crime," Osama Hamdan, Hamas' chief representative and senior leader in Lebanon told Press TV in late January.

The UN mission and Hamas officials on Monday might held a meeting during which Hamas pledged its full cooperation with the team of legal experts.

The government will work seriously to provide the commission with what it needs to carry out their work successfully, Hamas political advisor Ahmad Yousef said on the mission's first day in the besieged territory.

Israel, however, made every effort to stonewall the UN quest for peace. Goldstone's delegation was repeatedly denied visa's into the Gaza Strip in a move labeled as "disappointing" by the UN official.

"I'm disappointed, and the members of the mission are disappointed, that we've had no positive response from the Israeli government," Goldstone told reporters in Geneva in late May.

The group eventually entered Gaza via Egypt through the Rafah crossing on Monday, immediately launching the investigation which will not include key Israel ministries involved in the war.

"So far, Israel is refusing to cooperate," said Rina Rosenberg, the development director at Adalah -- The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.

"And that means that the Goldstone mission wouldn't have access to speak to the army, to the military and the political leaders," she explained.

Goldstone and his team have plans to meet with other Hamas officials and also visit the Samuni family, which lost 29 of its members to the Israeli bombardment in January.

Goldstone's team leaves Gaza on Friday and is due to submit its report to the UN Human Rights Council in August.

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