JERUSALEM, April 15 Israel does not plan to cooperate with a U.N. agency's investigation into alleged war crimes by Israeli troops and Hamas militants during fighting in Gaza, an Israeli government official said on Wednesday.
Israeli forces launched a 22-day offensive in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip in late December with the stated goal of stopping cross-border rockets fired by Palestinian militants.
According to a Palestinian rights group, 1,417 Palestinians, including 926 civilians, were killed in the fighting. Israel disputes those figures.
The United Nations Human Rights Council appointed former U.N. war crimes prosector Richard Goldstone this month to head the investigation into allegations of human rights violations by both sides during the Dec. 27 to Jan. 18 conflict.
The Israeli government official said a letter was sent to Goldstone, a South African judge, through the Israeli embassy in Geneva informing him and the council that Israel believed it was "impossible to cooperate with the committee" in its inquiry.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council on Jan. 12 condemning Israel's military offensive and calling for its cessation was not supported by most democratic countries.
Hamas has not voiced opposition to Goldstone's inquiry but has yet to say whether it will cooperate. Human Rights Watch on Wednesday urged the United States and the European Union to pressure Israel and Hamas to go along with the investigation.
Goldstone's four-member team is expected to travel to the region in a few weeks and will issue a report to the U.N. Human Rights Council in July, the investigator said this month.
Human rights groups have criticised Israel's conduct during the Gaza offensive and called for an investigation into possible war crimes.
In addition to looking at Israel's conduct, Goldstone has said his inquiry would assess possible Palestinian violations of human rights. Militants fired hundreds of rockets into southern Israel during the fighting. (Writing by Joseph Nasr, Editing by Robert Woodward) (For blogs and links on Israeli politics and other Israeli and Palestinian news, go to blogs.reuters.com/axismundi)