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Page last updated at 08:29 GMT, Monday, 4 May 2009 09:29 UK

UN experts discuss Gaza mission

By Imogen Foulkes
BBC News, Geneva

Fire and smoke over Rafah after an Israeli strike in Gaza. Photo: January 2009
The Israeli offensive in Gaza lasted three weeks

UN investigators are beginning a week-long meeting in Geneva, ahead of a mission to Israel and the Gaza Strip.

The team is mandated to investigate possible war crimes committed by Israel and Hamas during Israel's incursion into Gaza last December and January.

But it remains unclear whether Israel will grant the investigators access to the former conflict zone.

The team, which is led by South African judge Richard Goldstone, was appointed by the UN's Human Rights Council.

Other team members include a military specialist and a human rights lawyer.

'Impartial'

In Geneva, the investigators will finalise the details of their mission - their task is to investigate, on the ground, possible human rights violations.

map

This includes allegations that the Israeli military deliberately targeted civilians during the conflict in Gaza, and that the Palestinian militant group, Hamas, used civilians as human shields.

Richard Goldstone has said his team will be impartial, but it is not yet clear whether Israel will co-operate. It refused to work with an earlier UN mission led by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Mr Goldstone's team hopes to leave for Israel shortly, possibly as soon as the end of this week. But unless Israel grants visas, access will be difficult.



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