November 20, 2014 / 12:42 PM / in 3 years

Israel to cooperate with U.N. Gaza war inquiry

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel said on Thursday it would cooperate with a United Nations investigation into Israeli attacks on U.N. facilities during last summer’s Gaza war and the use of U.N. sites by Palestinian militants to store weapons.

Palestinians look at a damaged classroom in a United Nation-run school sheltering Palestinians displaced by an Israeli ground offensive, that witnesses said was hit by Israeli shelling, in Jebalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip July 30, 2014. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Last week, Israel announced it would not cooperate with a separate U.N. Human Rights Council investigation into alleged war crimes committed during the July-August conflict, saying its findings were predetermined and accusing its chairman, Canadian academic William Schabas, of anti-Israeli bias.

Foreign ministry spokesman Paul Hirschson said that unlike that probe, the inquiry established by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was “an authentic investigation with potential for us to improve our performance in the course of conflict and learn from our mistakes.”

During the war at least six U.N.-run facilities were hit by Israeli fire, killing at least two dozen people. Ban, in a statement on July 23, condemned the discovery of rockets at a U.N.-administered school.

Israel has cited militants’ use of U.N. facilities to store rockets as a reason for targeting them. It says that in some cases U.N. institutions were hit by mistake or by Hamas projectiles.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the group welcomed the dispatch of any U.N. committee to Gaza. But he did not say whether Hamas would cooperate with an investigation into the storage of weapons at U.N. sites.

“No contact had been made with us regarding such a request. We will look into a request when it is made,” he said.

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed during the Gaza war. Sixty-seven Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel were killed by rockets and attacks by Hamas and other militant groups.

Ban this month named Patrick Cammaert, a retired Dutch general and former force commander of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, to head the investigation.

Israel’s military in September opened five criminal investigations into its Gaza war operations, including attacks that killed four Palestinian children on a beach and 17 people taking shelter at a U.N. school.

Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Mark Trevelyan

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