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Israel condemns UN's Gaza report

Destroyed building in Gaza City
The report accuses Israel of failing to protect civilian targets in Gaza

Israel has strongly criticised a UN human rights report into alleged war crimes during the Gaza conflict.

The report said both the Israeli army and Palestinian militants committed war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during fighting in January.

The report "was flawed from A-to-Z", the UN panel was "biased" and some of its findings "ludicrous", said Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev.

The report called for fresh war crimes inquiries under international scrutiny.

It said Israel's "Operation Cast Lead", launched in response to militant rocket fire, used disproportionate firepower against the densely populated Gaza Strip and disregarded the likelihood of civilian deaths.

The militant group Hamas criticised parts of the report alleging it fired rockets at Israel without distinguishing between military targets and the civilian population.

Intimidation

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Regev said the panel was "born in sin" because "even the UN" considers the Human Rights Council which commissioned the report "to have a one-side anti-Israeli agenda".

The investigations Israel has done into its troops' behaviour in the Gaza Strip is 1,000 times more serious than this investigation
Mark Regev

He also cast doubt on the impartiality of the four-judge panel, led by South African Richard Goldstone, based on comments one of its members had made before the inquiry.

Mr Regev charged that evidence collected in public hearings in the Gaza Strip, where he said witnesses were subject to intimidation from the militant Hamas movement, had the validity of a "show trial".

And he rejected the panel's recommendation that the UN Security Council should call on Israel to fully investigate possible violations by its forces, or face possible referral to the International Criminal Court.

"In the last six months, the investigations Israel has done into its troops' behaviour in the Gaza Strip is 1,000 times more serious than this investigation," Mr Regev said.

Resistance

Hamas officials welcomed the Goldstone report's unusually harsh condemnation of Israel, but rejected criticism of itself.

Richard Goldstone comments on 'crimes' committed by Israeli and Palestinian forces

"The Palestinian people and the Palestinian resistance were in a position of self-defence and not of attack," said senior Hamas official Ismail Haniya.

"One cannot compare the simple capabilities of the resistance with the great strength of the occupation," he said.

Israel did not co-operate with the commission and its members had to enter the Gaza Strip from the border, which is under Egyptian supervision.

At the Israeli Foreign Ministry, a spokesman said a diplomatic offensive was being planned to block possible referral of Israeli commanders or officials to the ICC.

The Israeli military has conducted investigations into some claims of human rights violations that have found no systematic wrongdoing. Some cases remain pending.

Palestinians and human rights groups say more than 1,400 Gazans were killed in the violence between 27 December and 16 January, though Israel puts the figure at 1,166. Three Israeli civilians and 10 Israeli soldiers were also killed.

Mr Goldstone urged "fair-minded people" to read the 574-page report and "at the end of it, point out where it failed to be objective or even-handed".



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