Israel urges U.N. to cancel Gaza war crimes report

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 02, 2011 4:43 PM
Israel urges U.N. to cancel Gaza war crimes report

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel Saturday called on the U.N. to cancel a report which said it had committed war crimes during its December 2008-January 2009 Gaza offensive, after its author said he may have been wrong.

South African jurist Richard Goldstone chaired a fact finding mission which in a 2009 report to the U.N. Human Rights Council said both Israel and the Islamist group Hamas, which controls Gaza, were guilty of war crimes in the conflict.

Goldstone wrote in a Washington Post column published on Friday: "If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document."

About 1,400 Palestinians, including hundreds of civilians, and 13 Israelis were killed in the devastating war that was launched with Israel's declared aim of ending cross-border rocket fire from Palestinian militants.

Israel refused to cooperate with Goldstone's mission and condemned his report as distorted and biased.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a written statement issued Saturday called on the U.N. to cancel the Goldstone report.

"Everything we said has been proven true, Israel did not intentionally harm civilians, its investigating bodies are worthy and the fact that Goldstone has retracted should bring the report to be shelved once and for all," the statement said.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Israeli Channel 2's Meet the Press that "the truth has come to light," and attributed Goldstone's back-pedal to diplomatic efforts.

REGRET

Goldstone indicated in his Friday essay that had Israel cooperated with him at the time, it could have shown civilians were not deliberately targeted "as a matter of policy."

Israeli military investigations into cases of misconduct later shed light on civilian killings, Goldstone said.

"I regret that our fact-finding mission did not have such evidence explaining the circumstances in which we said civilians were targeted, because it probably would have influenced our findings about intentionality and war crimes," Goldstone said.

Goldstone also wrote that Israel has investigated "to a significant degree" incidents cited in his report, while Hamas has "done nothing" to examine its rocket attacks which were "purposefully and indiscriminately" aimed at civilians.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri dismissed Goldstone's remarks saying that "his retreat does not change the fact war crimes had been committed against 1.5 million people in Gaza," and noted that the group cooperated fully with the fact finding mission.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad aL-Malki said Goldstone's comments did not change a thing. "The report was as clear as the crimes that Israel committed during the war," he said.

(Writing by Maayan Lubell; additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Ali Sawafta in Ramallah; Editing by Matthew Jones)