Israel does not intend to cooperate with the United Nations delegation that is to be sent to the region to examine claims of war crimes carried out in the course of Operation Cast Lead, government officials told press agencies yesterday.

The delegation, headed by South African judge Richard Goldstone, was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council last month.

Goldstone had served as the chief prosecutor of the United Nations international criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda.

He has many Israeli friends and has relatives living in the country.

The delegation, which in addition to Goldstone has three other members, is supposed to check claims of war crimes carried out by Israeli forces against civilians in the Gaza Strip as well as alleged war crimes on the part of Palestinian terror organizations against residents of southern Israel.

Hamas has already announced that it would cooperate with the delegation, however Israeli officials say they fears it will be an anti-Israeli body, whose conclusions have already been drawn.

A senior official in the Foreign Ministry said that Israel will not allow the members of the delegation to enter the country, as the mandate given to it by the UN organization was "one-sided" and made no mention of the missile launches and other Hamas activity preceding and during the Israeli operation. "This is not principled and sweeping lack of cooperation with the UNHRC, and when the sun dawns again over that council we'll cooperate," the official said.

The decision means the committee will only be able to enter the Gaza Strip via Egypt, if the local authorities allow it through.

Banned entry

Israel has banned entry to UN personnel in the past, most recently with UN inspector Richard Falk, when similar reasons were given for the ban.

Despite this, Israel is cooperating with another UN investigation, that of the numerous occasions during which the IDF hit organization facilities during the fighting in the Gaza strip. Most of these were United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) buildings. Former head of strategy in the planning division of the Israel Defense Forces General Staff, Udi Dekel, had been tasked to communicate between this investigation and the IDF.

The army is expected to release in the coming days the results of several of its own investigations of its own conduct in Operation Cast Lead, regarding claims of violating international law.

These investigations include that of house demolitions during the operation and the use of white phosphorus. Some of these issues drew sharp and critical reports from human rights and left-wing organizations over the last two months.

The IDF reports are expected to be released before Israeli Independence day. next month.