Israeli PM urges UN to retract Gaza war crimes report

The author of report on Israel`s offensive on Gaza Strip regrets conclusions.

Jerusalem: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the United Nations on Saturday to retract a report on Israel`s 2008-2009 military offensive on the Gaza Strip after its author regretted his conclusions.

South African judge Richard Goldstone, who led the UN investigation, said that "if I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document," and likely less critical of Israel.

Responding to Goldstone`s op-ed published in The Washington Post, Netanyahu urged the United Nations to "nullify" the report, saying it "must be thrown into the dustbin of history”.

"Goldstone himself has just confirmed what we all knew all along... I think our soldiers and army behaved according to the highest international standards," he added during a brief televised address.

"We expect this farce to be rectified immediately."

Netanyahu once again rejected the findings of the Goldstone Report, which came up with evidence of possible war crimes and crimes against humanity by both Israel and Hamas for targeting civilians.

During Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli military offensive launched in December 2008 in response to rocket fire from Gaza, Netanyahu said the Jewish state did not deliberately target civilians, while Hamas fired at innocent civilians and did not conduct investigations.

The Prime Minister said the fact that longtime Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi -- now facing an uprising in his country -- was on the UN Human Rights Council that commissioned the report, made the findings especially dubious.

"There is no greater absurdity," he said.

Goldstone agreed in his opinion piece that the council has a "history of bias against Israel”, noting that his report marked the first time the United Nations investigated and condemned acts of terrorism by Hamas.

Though lasting only 22 days, the conflict was particularly bloody and killed more than 1,400 people, the vast majority of them Palestinians.

The Islamic movement Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, is designated as a terror group by Israel, the United States and the European Union.

"We know a lot more today about what happened in the Gaza war of 2008-09 than we did when I chaired the fact-finding mission" that produced his report, Goldstone wrote.

A UN committee of independent experts that followed up on Goldstone Report recommendations found that Israel "has dedicated significant resources to investigate over 400 allegations of operational misconduct in Gaza”.

In contrast, Hamas leaders "have not conducted any investigations" into the rocket and mortar attacks launched against Israel that allegedly triggered the Israeli raids, Goldstone added.

Crimes allegedly committed by Hamas were intentional because its rockets were "purposefully and indiscriminately aimed at civilian targets”, he said.

Allegations of intentionality by Israel in turn were based on the death and wounding of civilians in situations where the UN fact-finding mission could not reach "any other reasonable conclusion”, according to Goldstone.

He also acknowledged that while some incidents were validated in cases involving individual soldiers, Israeli investigations found that "civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy”.

Goldstone recalled one of the most serious incidents his team investigated -- without Israel`s cooperation due to its allegations that the investigators were biased -- when Israeli shelling of a Gaza home killed 29 members of the Al-Samouni family.

He noted that Israel`s investigation into the incident found the attack was apparently due to an Israeli commander`s misinterpretation of a drone image and that an officer was under investigation for having ordered the shelling.

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

The report`s main recommendation was for Israel and Hamas to "investigate, transparently and in good faith, the incidents referred to in our report."

The subsequent UN report "has found that Israel has done this to a significant degree; Hamas has done nothing”.

Bureau Report