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Haniyeh meets with UN fact-finding mission head Goldstone

June 5, 2009 10:06 A.M. (Updated: June 5, 2009 10:06 A.M.)
Gaza - Ma'an - De facto Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on Thursday night met with the head of a UN fact-finding mission investigating alleged Israeli war crimes in Gaza.

The Hamas-affiliated leader met Justice Richard Goldstone, and the two discussed claims of Israeli aggression toward Gazans and allegations of war crimes in the latest assault on Gaza, in addition to the ongoing siege.

Haniyeh accused Israel of a number of attacks against Palestinians, the commercial siege and claims that Israelis are preventing Palestinians from "all life sources," in addition to shelling residential buildings, "killing mothers and children in cold blood" and using prohibited weapons, violating international law, and torturing Palestinian detainees.

The Hamas prime minister said the Israeli war on Gaza that began in late December 2008 was "humiliating to humanity itself and not just to Palestinians," insisting on the importance of sending "these war criminals to court and judging them for their crimes."

For his part, Goldstone insisted that he would seek justice and that his committee will be honest, praising the cooperation of the de facto government, which is run by Hamas.

Haniyeh's deputy, Ziyad Al-Thatha, and Dr Basem Na'im, Gaza's health minister, Justice Minister Faraj Al-Ghoul, Dr Muhammad Awad, secretary-general of the Ministers' Council, political advisor Dr Yousef Razqa and de facto spokesman Taher An-Nunu, accompanied Haniyeh in his meeting with Goldstone and his committee.

Speaking at a news conference in Gaza on Thursday evening, Justice Goldstone said Israel was approached a number of times seeking its cooperation in the inquiry into the three-week attack on Gaza in December and January.

"The response," he said, "was a complete refusal."

"But we will not let that stop us from carrying out our mission," Goldstone said, ". the refusal of cooperation will not in any way decrease the weight of our investigation," adding that his team would also probe Israel's own allegations of war crimes committed by its opponents.

Goldstone also said that while he could not disclose any information about the events his team is investigating during its weeklong visit to Gaza, the commission's report will be made public by the first week of September.

He also said that Palestinians attitudes toward the probe had been "admirable" and their cooperation would be noted in the report. The Hamas de facto government in Gaza has complied with the investigation, in contrast to Israel.

Goldstone, a Jewish South African judge and veteran of two international war crimes tribunals, was appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council to lead the investigation into Israel's attack on Gaza, which left more than 1,400 Palestinians dead.

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