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Gaza war probes get U.N. approval

By Lena Shemel, CNN
Israeli troops and armored vehicles wait on the Israel-Gaza border in January.
Israeli troops and armored vehicles wait on the Israel-Gaza border in January.
  • Resolution passes by a vote of 114-18, endorses Goldstone report
  • Resolution condemns "all targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure"
  • Israeli ambassadors say Goldstone report bashes Israel, ignores terror realities
  • United States among 18 countries to reject resolution, calling it biased
  • Israel
  • Palestinian Politics
  • United Nations
  • Hamas
  • Gaza

United Nations (CNN) -- The United Nations General Assembly approved a resolution endorsing a U.N. report calling for both Israel and Palestine to carry out independent investigations of possible war crimes committed in the Gaza Strip during last winter's conflict.

The nonbinding resolution passed Thursday condemned "all targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure" and called on the Security Council to act if either side fails to comply within a three-month time frame.

It calls on U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to report to the General Assembly within three months "with a view to considering further action, if necessary, by the relevant United Nations organs and bodies, including the Security Council."

Passage was expected, given the widespread support for the Palestinians and the strong criticism of Israel that resonated in the speeches by 45 nations during the two-day debate. The resolution, brought forward by approximately 20 Arab League members, passed by a vote of 114-18 by the 192-member body.

Prior to the vote, Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Daniel Carmon said the resolution "represents yet another pretext to bash Israel at the U.N. and is detrimental to any positive diplomatic engagement in the region."

The United States was among the 18 countries to reject the resolution, calling it "unbalanced and biased" and warning that it would stand in the way of progress in the Mideast peace process.

"The United States strongly supports accountability for human rights and humanitarian law violations in relation to the Gaza conflict," U.S. deputy ambassador Alejandro Wolff told the General Assembly. However, he strongly criticized the Goldstone report for "its unbalanced focus on Israel" and its "failure to assign appropriate responsibility to Hamas."

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Several other Western nations joined the United States in voting against the resolution, stating that they could not fully endorse the Goldstone report or the possibility of action taken by the Security Council.

The resolution endorsed the Human Rights Council Fact Finding Mission report, which concluded that Israel deliberately targeted civilians, using disproportionate force, and destroyed civilian infrastructure during the incursion into Gaza. The report also accused Hamas of spreading terror through its rocket attacks on Israel and deliberately targeting civilians.

The so-called Goldstone report was released on September 15 and named after South African Justice Richard Goldstone, war crimes prosecutor for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, who led the mission.

Combat in Gaza last winter left 1,387 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead. The high number of Palestinian civilian casualties and the findings of the Goldstone report have put Israel under intense scrutiny in the international community. Israel continues to defend its military actions during the war, citing the persistent rocket-firing by Hamas onto Israeli cities and towns over the last eight years, which Israel classifies as terrorist attacks.

Palestinian Observer to the United Nations Riyad Mansour vowed to return to the General Assembly to take further action. "We started the journey today ... and we will continue this process until we make sure that the Israeli criminals who have committed war crimes against the Palestinian civilians face justice and get the punishment they deserve," he said.

The Israeli government has been criticized for refusing to cooperate with the recommendations outlined by the Goldstone report, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling it an "absurdity." Israel rejected the resolution calling it "deeply flawed, one-sided, and prejudiced."

Israeli Ambassador Gabriela Shalev on Wednesday told the General Assembly, "The report ignores the reality of terror activity and the complexity of military challenges in fighting terrorists in urban warfare."