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Goldstone's UN inquiry team arrives in Gaza

Israel has refused to co-operate with a UN team investigating possible war crimes in Gaza.

The team, led by the South African Jewish judge Richard Goldstone, arrived today in the Strip on a week-long fact finding mission.

Despite repeated requests from the UN, Israel refused to grant visas to the four man team enter the Strip from the Israeli side of the border, so the investigators arrived from Egypt.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor denounced the inquiry and said it was biased against Israel before the questions began. He said: "They have been instructed to prove that Israel is guilty and we will not collaborate with such a masquerade,"

The UN wants to investigate whether Israel and Hamas committed war crimes during Israel's three-week operation in Gaza in December and January.

The UN Human Rights Council has been accused of singling out unfairly, and is viewed by some as having less credibility than other parts of the United Nations.

But correspondents say Judge Goldstone, a respected South African war crimes prosecutor, as head of the inquiry has given it greater clout.

Judge Goldstone originally said his team had hoped to visit southern Israeli towns which have been attacked by Hamas rockets before entering Gaza from Israel, but Israel has shown no sign of allowing access.

Israel was initially angered that the team was only asked to investigate alleged Israeli violations, but after Mr Goldstone was appointed, its mandate was widened to cover the activities of Palestinian militants too.

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