UN rights team probes Israel's Gaza offensive
Four-member investigation team headed by South African jurist Richard Goldstone begins work in Strip to try to determine whether war crimes were committed during Operation Cast Lead. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman says committee told 'to find Israel guilty even before investigation begins'
United Nations human rights investigators began work in the Gaza Strip on Monday to try to determine whether war crimes were committed during the offensive Israel launched in the Hamas-ruled territory last December.
"We have come here to see, to learn, to talk to people in all walks of life; ordinary people, governmental people, administrative people," Goldstone told reporters.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said the Israeli government believed the committee had been told "to find Israel guilty even before the investigation begins".
Goldstone and his colleagues at Rafah crossing (Photo: Reuters)
The investigators plan to spend a week in the Gaza Strip. Goldstone said the group would probably visit again later in the month and submit a report in early August.
International human rights groups have called for a credible independent investigation of the conduct of Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip, looking at the destruction of several residential areas and firing of artillery shells containing white phosphorous which can cause severe burns.
According to a Palestinian rights group, 1,417 people including 926 civilians were killed during Israel's December 27 - January 18 offensive in the coastal enclave 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 terrorists. It says 1,166 Palestinians were killed, 295 of them civilians.
Israel says an internal probe by its armed forces last month found no evidence of serious misconduct by its troops.