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Israel mulls Gaza probes review

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks over his glasses next to Education Minister Gidon Saar at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting 18 October 2009
Mr Netanyahu is said to hope the review will divert pressure on Israel

Israel is considering a review of its internal military inquiries which cleared troops of alleged war crimes in last winter's offensive in Gaza.

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told the BBC another investigation could be conducted if "it was necessary to prove... there were no wrongdoings".

A recent UN report said Israel and Hamas should probe alleged war crimes or face international prosecutions.

Israel refused to co-operate with the UN team and has rejected its findings.

Mr Ayalon insisted Israeli army probes by military investigators were already "completely independent... but we are looking into further reviews as we will see fit".

Israel has been under pressure to set up an independent investigation into war-crimes allegations raised by the fact-finding mission led by South African judge Richard Goldstone for the UN Human Rights Council.

Critics have accused the military inquiries of attempting to whitewash the army's conduct.

Insufficient

Numerous human rights investigations, in addition to Goldstone, have accused Israel of breaking the laws of war in Gaza, principally by failing to distinguish between military and civilian targets.

Gaza child stands in front of his family home that was destroyed during Israel's campaign


The Goldstone report accuses Hamas militants in Gaza of firing indiscriminately at Israeli civilian centres, which is also a war crime.

On Sunday, an Israeli government source was quoted saying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak "hope" that holding a review of the military investigations "will put this issue to rest".

Israel has lobbied hard against the Goldstone report saying it impairs its right to self-defence and harms prospects of reviving peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

The military has opened about 100 investigations into wrongdoing in Gaza, of which about 20 are criminal.

Mr Goldstone has said he will be satisfied if Israel sets up an independent commission of inquiry, but it is insufficient for the military to investigate itself.

Last week, Israel's Intelligence Minister and deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor joined a growing list of politicians calling for such an inquiry. Correspondents say pressure is also coming from the justice and foreign ministries.



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