UN appoints Jewish judge to head Gaza inquiry into alleged war crimes

(DailyMail/UK) – A Jewish judge said last night he was ‘shocked’ to be named as head of an investigation into claims of Israeli war crimes in the Gaza Strip.

Richard Goldstone, a South African, will examine allegations that soldiers killed Palestinian civilians in the three-week conflict with Hamas.

The appointment by the UN is believed to be an attempt to appease Israeli opposition to the inquiry. But there are fears it could prompt a Palestinian refusal to co-operate.

Mr Goldstone confessed he was ‘shocked, as a Jew’ to be invited to head the mission.

He said it ‘added an additional dimension’ to the four-person inquiry team which also includes British law professor Christine Chinkin.

The judge, who is on the board of governors at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, added: ‘I believe I can approach the daunting task that I have accepted in an even-handed and impartial manner.’

In the past, Israel has snubbed human rights investigations. It was still unclear last night if its leaders intended to co-operate with the latest inquiry.

An explosion after an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on January 13

An explosion after an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on January 13

According to a Palestinian rights group, 1,417 people, including 926 civilians, were killed in the December-January war. Thirteen Israelis also died.

Mr Goldstone is urging Israeli and Palestinian authorities to cooperate with the probe.

Possible Palestinian violations in southern Israel will also be assessed, he said, telling a news conference that his team expects to travel to the region in a few weeks and issue a report to the UN Human Rights Council in July.

‘There are substantial allegations of war crimes having been committed before, during and after the military operations in Gaza,’ Mr Goldstone said.

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