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UN panel debates Gaza War report slamming Israel, Hamas

  • Story Highlights
  • Report says both Israel and Hamas took "actions amounting to war crimes"
  • Fact-finding mission looked at the three-week war last winter in Gaza
  • Report calls for further action by U.N. unless both sides conduct investigations
  • Israel blasts the report; Palestinians call for immediate U.N. debate
From Kevin Flower
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(CNN) -- The U.N. Council for Human Rights began debate Thursday over whether to adopt the recommendations of a controversial U.N. report examining the three-week winter war between Israel and the militant group Hamas in Gaza.

An Israeli soldier sits on a tank on the Israel-Gaza border just before fighting began in December 2008.

An Israeli soldier sits on a tank on the Israel-Gaza border just before fighting began in December 2008.

The report, based on a fact-finding mission led by former South African jurist Richard Goldstone, was released last month and concluded that Israel and Hamas had both committed "actions amounting to war crimes, possibly crimes against humanity."

Speaking at the start of the meeting, Israeli Ambassador Aharon Leshno Yaar blasted the United Nations for even holding the special session. Yaar said it "had nothing to do with human rights and everything to do with Palestinian politics."

He said adoption of the "biased" recommendations of the Goldstone report, which calls for further action by the General Assembly and Security Council if both sides do not conduct credible investigations, would constitute a "reward for terror" that "will set back hopes for peace in the region."

Previously, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the Palestinian Authority that pushing action on the Goldstone report would deal "a mortal blow" to the peace process.

The council received the report September 29 but took no action, after a request by the Palestinian Authority to defer discussion for six months.

The Palestinian Authority government of Mahmoud Abbas came under withering domestic criticism for the move and was accused of succumbing to Israeli and American pressure to drop the issue.

Abbas reversed course Sunday and in a televised address told Palestinians that he was seeking immediate debate within the Human Rights Council and vowed to work "to punish everyone who was responsible for the hideous crimes committed against our children, our men and women -- especially in our dear Gaza."

Ibrahim Khraishi, the Palestinian Authority's U.N. ambassador in Geneva, said Israel had rebuffed the Palestinian Authority's conciliatory move to defer debate on the report and instead had answered "with even more grave violations of the rights of Palestinians" in the form of restrictions of movement and housing demolitions in East Jerusalem.

The 47-member Human Rights Council is expected to vote on the resolution on Friday.

The draft resolution goes beyond the Gaza conflict. It "strongly condemns" measures taken by Israel limiting Palestinians' access to their properties and holy sites "on the basis of national origin, religion, sex, age or any other discriminatory ground."

It further condemns "Israeli violations of human rights in Occupied East Jerusalem, particularly the confiscation of lands and properties, the demolishing of houses and private properties, the construction and expansion of settlements, the continuous construction of the separation wall, changing the demographic and geographic character of East Jerusalem, the restrictions on the freedom of movement of the Palestinian citizens of East Jerusalem, as well as the continuous digging and excavation works in and around Al-Aqsa mosque and its vicinity."

There is an ongoing dispute about the number of people killed in the three-week military offensive that Israel called Operation Cast Lead, which began December 27 and ended January 18.

The Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights put the death toll at 1,419 and said 1,167 of those were non-combatants. The Israeli military released its own figures earlier this year, saying that 1,166 people were killed, 60 percent of whom were "terror operatives."

All About United NationsIsraelPalestinian National AuthorityHamasGaza

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