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Hamas urges UN council to send investigators

March 26, 2012 10:19 P.M. (Updated: March 28, 2012 10:03 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Hamas on Monday urged the UN Human Rights Council to send a fact-finding mission to Palestinian territories after Israel said it would block the visit.

Israel on Monday said it had severed contact with the UN council after its launch last week of an international investigation into illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said the decision meant the fact-finding team the council planned to send to the West Bank will not be allowed to enter the territory or Israel.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said Israel was trying to blackmail the UN organization and influence its decisions.

In a statement, Barhoum said Israel's boycott of the council was proof that Israel oppressed the Palestinian people. The Hamas official urged the council to send investigators, particularly to Jerusalem.

Decision 'most regrettable'

The president of the UN Human Rights Council Laura Dupuy Lasserre said she had seen media reports of Israel's reaction and, if confirmed, it would be "most regrettable".

"I have no doubt that it is in the interest of Israel to cooperate with the Human Rights Council on this investigative mission, not least so that it can explain its own policies and actions to the independent commissioners once they are appointed," she said in a statement.

Asked by Reuters to comment further, she said recent history showed Israel would not stop the fact-finding mission from gathering information by deciding not to cooperate with it, even if it could not physically gain access to the West Bank or Israel.

"The most recent example of refusal to cooperate is Syria, which did not permit either the Human Rights Council mandated Fact-finding Mission or the Commission of Inquiry to enter the country.

"On the other hand, in the case of the other two Commissions of Inquiry that took place in 2011, both Libya and Cote d'Ivoire did cooperate, and allowed the Commissioners to visit."

As in the Syrian mission, the investigation would have to resort to other sources of information if denied access.

"Unfortunately, the image of Israel would be damaged in a moment of high expectations in the peace negotiations," she said. "I can't emphasize strongly enough that it is my hope and wish we won't come to that path."

The UN Human Rights Council condemned Israel's planned construction of new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, saying they undermined the peace process and posed a threat to the two-state solution and the creation of a contiguous and independent Palestinian state.

Israel's Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank are illegal under international law.

Reuters contributed to this report.
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