GENEVA, Switzerland, May 4 (UPI) -- U.N. investigators gathered in Geneva Monday for a weeklong meeting ahead of their mission to Israel and Gaza to investigate possible war crimes.
The team, led by South African Judge Richard Goldstone, was charged with investigating allegations the Israeli military deliberately targeted civilians during the December-January conflict in the strip and claims Hamas used civilians as human shields, the BBC reported. Unclear is whether Israel would allow investigators access to the former conflict zone.
Meanwhile, a non-government organization said it found a 15 percent increase in the number of Palestinian patients Israel interrogated and forced to provide information on Hamas or act as spies as a precondition to leaving Gaza for medical treatment, The Jerusalem Post reported. Physicians for Human Rights-Israel said it would share its findings with the U.N. Committee Against Torture in Geneva Monday.
The group said the number of applicants questioned at the Erez crossing to Gaza rose from 1.45 percent in January 2008 to 17 percent in January 2009. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said people entering Israel from the Gaza Strip must be checked for security reasons.
The United Nations is reviewing Israel, Chad, Chile, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Philippines as part of a periodic process, the Post said.
"It is a routine appearance before one of the many U.N. conventions. It is not a political forum. It is a professional one," Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva Roni Leshno Yaar said.