Page last updated at 13:37 GMT, Friday, 2 October 2009 14:37 UK

UN puts off action on Gaza report

A Palestinian walks amidst the debris of destroyed buildings following Israeli air strikes in Rafah, Gaza. Photo: January 2009
The report accuses Israel of using "disproportionate force" in Gaza

The UN Human Rights Council has deferred its response to a report on the recent conflict in Gaza.

The report says Israel and Palestinian militants committed war crimes, and possible crimes against humanity, during the Israeli offensive in Gaza.

The report has come under sustained attack from Israel and its supporters.

The council, which since last month includes the US, failed to agree on a draft resolution endorsing the report. It will now be considered in March.

Palestinian officials denied the deferral was a victory for Israel.

It was reported earlier on Friday that the Palestinian Authority had withdrawn its support for a resolution endorsing the report, after strong pressure from Washington, but this was strongly denied by Palestinian officials.

'More time'

The Human Rights Council had been due to vote on Friday on a resolution that would have forwarded the report, written by leading South African judge Richard Goldstone, to the Security Council.

This is not a victory for Israel. The report is there and we will ensure that the report remains alive
Imad Zuhairi
Deputy Palestinian ambassador

But Pakistan, speaking for Arab, Islamic and African sponsors of a resolution, formally asked for it to be deferred until the next regular session in March, to "give more time for a broad-based and comprehensive consideration", Pakistan's envoy Zamir Akram said.

Palestinian deputy ambassador Imad Zuhairi told the Associated Press that the deferral was a result of his government's desire to build broad international support for action next year.

"This is not a victory for Israel. The report is there and we will ensure that the report remains alive," Mr Zuhairi said.

'Blow to peace'

On Thursday Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said the report's endorsement would deal "a fatal blow" to peace.

The 574-page UN Human Rights Council report accused both the Israeli army and Palestinian militants of deliberately terrorising and killing civilians on the other side.

It urged the UN Security Council to refer allegations to the International Criminal Court (ICC) if either side failed to investigate and prosecute suspects.

The report has been widely praised by human rights groups but Israeli allies like the US have criticised its conclusions.

Israeli military action destroyed thousands of homes, hundreds of factories and 80 official buildings.

Palestinians and human rights groups say more than 1,400 people were killed in the violence between 27 December 2008 and 16 January 2009, more than half of them civilians.

Israel puts the number of deaths at 1,166 - fewer than 300 of them civilians. Three Israeli civilians and 10 Israeli soldiers were also killed.

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