UN panel holds hearings of Palestinian victims

Other News Materials 28 June 2009 13:33 (UTC +04:00)

A UN panel investigating possible war crimes by Israel and the Islamic Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip during the massive Israeli aggression started holding hearings on Sunday as part of its mandate, Xinhua reported.

Numerous Palestinian witnesses and victims will testify for two days before a South African war crime prosecutor, Richard Goldstone, who heads the panel at the UN Relief and Works Agency ( UNRWA) headquarters in Gaza city.

Other witnesses, including emergency workers and representatives of all involved parties will also speak about their experiences during the 22-day Israeli military offensive in the Hamas-controlled enclave that ended on Jan. 18.

The sessions are open to public, which can be watched live on television.

Upon his arrival at Gaza Friday, Goldstone said that the aim of the hearings is to promote the victims' outreach to the world. He said the sessions were part of his mission's mandate which also includes scene meetings with victims and experts and evidence collection.

Other similar hearing sessions, for Israelis however, are planned to take place in Geneva on July 6 and 7, according to Goldstone.

Goldstone has been hopeful to visit southern Israel to look into places targeted by Hamas' rockets during the operation but Israel refused to cooperate with the UN mission, citing fears of bias.

At the beginning of June, the inquiry mission arrived in Gaza from Egypt and spent five days visiting areas that were bombed during Israel's assault and the places that came under a ground military operation.

More than 1,400 Palestinians were killed during the Israeli Operation Cast Lead, most of them are civilians, and thousands of houses and civilian properties were destroyed.

On the Israeli side, three civilians were killed in Palestinian rocket attacks and 10 soldiers were killed in direct confrontation inside Gaza.