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Page last updated at 15:38 GMT, Wednesday, 7 October 2009 16:38 UK

Palestinian U-turn on Gaza report

March in Ramallah criticising PA stance on Gaza report
The Palestinian public has expressed strong disapproval of the PA stance

The Palestinian Authority has backed UN Security Council talks on alleged war crimes in Gaza, days after seeking the deferral of a UN debate on the issue.

The UN Security Council is set to discuss whether to hold an emergency session on the Goldstone report, which accuses Israel and Hamas of war crimes.

A senior PA politician has said last week's request to defer discussion of the report was a "mistake".

The PA decision sparked an outcry among Palestinians.

Libya, the only Arab state on the 15-member body, will request the UN session in a closed-door meeting.

Palestinian officials voiced their "full support" for the proposed discussion - after leaders were excoriated for requesting a deferral of a UN debate last week.

PA politician Yasser Abed Rabbo, has said the leadership had erred by seeking the deferral of the debate at the Human Rights Council until next March.

"We must say a mistake has been made. This mistake should not be underestimated or concealed," he said in a radio interview.

We requested a meeting because of the seriousness of the [Goldstone] report and because we think it's too long to wait until March
Ahmed Gebrel
Libyan UN spokesman

Many Palestinians have expressed anger at PA President Mahmoud Abbas for seeming to let Israelis off the hook following Goldstone's trenchant criticism of Israel's blockade of Gaza and attacks on its citizens.

Mr Abbas himself has ordered an "investigation" into how his own government made the decision, in an apparent attempt to head off a wave of criticism.

Academics and rights workers held a street protest on Monday.

The Islamist movement Hamas, which controls Gaza, has lashed out at the decision as "shameful and irresponsible", and posters saying "to the trash heap of history, you traitor, Mahmoud Abbas" have appeared in the Strip.

And an Israeli-Arab political party has called on the PA leader to resign.

The UN panel led by eminent South African judge Richard Goldstone accused Israel of using disproportionate force and deliberately harming civilians.

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

Israel has rejected the evidence and said it had already investigated its troops' conduct, clearing most of the subjects of wrongdoing.

'Bad for peace'

Palestinian delegates in Geneva reportedly came under intense pressure from the US and Israel to seek the delay of the Human Rights Council debate.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu argued that the report's conclusions would "devastate the peace process", although peace talks are currently stalled anyway over Israeli settlement-building in the occupied West Bank.

Richard Goldstone
Judge Goldstone said accountability was essential to fostering peace

Hamas, the militant rival to the Fatah-dominated PA which administers Gaza, is also accused of indiscriminately targeting Israeli civilians. It too has rejected the Goldstone report.

Any Libyan-proposed resolution at the UN Security Council can be vetoed by the US, which has in the past used its blocking powers dozens of times to prevent action against its closest ally in the Middle East.

A Libyan spokesman at the UN headquarters in New York said the meeting was necessary "because of the seriousness of the report and because we think it's too long to wait until March".

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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