A UN team investigating possible war crimes in Gaza describes testimonies presented to the mission as "difficult to hear" after holding public hearings with the victims of the conflict.
On Tuesday, The fact-finding mission ended its four-day public hearings to gather witness testimony about alleged war crimes during Israel’s three-week war on the Gaza Strip.
The UN inquiry team — headed by Richard Goldstone, a Jewish South African judge — held two days of public hearings in Gaza two weeks ago and another two-day in Geneva on Monday and Tuesday to give a chance to those who were not able to travel to Gaza to present their testimony.
Tel Aviv refused to cooperate with the UN Human Rights Council and did not allow the investigators to enter Israel, accusing the panel of being pro-Palestinian.
After the hearings, Goldstone said the team was shocked by the extent of the destruction in Gaza and expressed his deep sympathy.
"The testimonies we have heard from victims and witnesses… have been very difficult to hear, but I believe it is important that we listen to these stories," Goldstone told a news conference.
"Obviously on this mission, visiting Gaza was very important, not only to listen to people but to see the physical damage. That shook all of us, the extent of it," he continued.
International organizations and UN human rights investigations have repeatedly said that the Israeli army deliberately used banned ammunition, such as depleted uranium and white phosphorus shells, in densely populated civilian areas.
Israel waged an all-out war on Gaza on December 27. Three weeks of ensuing airstrikes and a ground incursion left nearly 1,400 Palestinians — at least 1,100 of whom were civilians — dead and thousands injured.
The onslaught also destroyed some 4,000 residential buildings and damaged 16,000 other homes, costing the Palestinian economy at least USD 1.6 billion.
The mission plans to present its final report in September.