Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former Anglican Archbishop of Capetown and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, has been unable to reach the Gaza Strip for a UN fact-finding mission because Israel would not cooperate with the visit. In a statement issued from Geneva last week, he said he and the assembled fact-finding team found "the lack of co-operation by the Israeli Government very distressing, as well as its failure to allow the mission timely passage to Israel". They had resisted entering Gaza through Egypt because they wanted to visit Israel as well and had "hoped for meetings with members of the [Israeli] Government at a high level". The UN had appointed the Archbishop to lead a mission to the town of Beit Hanoun in Gaza, where 19 Palestinians were killed during Israeli military operations last month. The visit was to follow a UN Human Rights Council's resolution calling for a mission to "make recommendations on ways and means to protect Palestinians against further Israeli assaults". Israel has apologised for the 8 November attack, calling it the result of a technical error. Archbishop Tutu said the visit intended to look at human rights and humanitarian law violations by both sides, with a view to contributing "to the creation of a climate conducive to negotiations". In the statement, concern was expressed about the "humanitarian crisis of very serious proportions" in Gaza. "This is a time in our history that neither allows for indifference to the plight of those suffering," it commented, "nor a refusal to search for a solution to the present crisis in the region".
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