The United Nations has sent an investigative team to Gaza to investigate allegations that both Israel and Hamas committed war crimes during the three-week Cast Lead counterterror offensive in December and January. The team entered Gaza from Egypt on Monday, without securing Israel's authorization.
The UN team plans to stay in the area for one week gathering testimony. It will submit a report in August.
Israel informed the UN in April that it did not intend to cooperate with the investigation. On Monday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak reaffirmed that statement, telling UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, “I don't think Israel has to, or will, cooperate with this investigation.”
Barak explained that Israel does not trust the UN team's objectivity. “From our experience, they will never be able to talk to the other side and to penetrate or interrogate the series of terrorist operations along the years,” he said.
Israel is confident in the IDF's ethical code, Barak added, and does not feel the need for additional investigations. He suggested that the UN had faulty priorities, saying, “Instead of determining why terrorist groups fired on Israeli civilians and territory for seven years, and why after IDF forces and settlers withdrew from the Gaza strip – the fire continued, the UN has chosen to investigate the IDF.”
Israel has conducted its own investigation into the Gaza operation, and concluded that the majority of those killed were armed Hamas terrorists, and hundreds more may have been terrorists as well. The roughly 300 civilian deaths during the operation were not intentional, and occurred despite IDF precautionary measures, they determined.
While Israel ignored the delegation, Hamas officials greeted it warmly, and senior Hamas official Ghazi Hammad met the UN members as they entered Gaza. “We are ready to help these committees and encourage them to unveil the truth,” said Hamas spokesman Fauzi Barhoum.