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Middle east

UN report accuses both sides of war crimes

Video by Jessica Lemasurier

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2010-02-01

Israel has rejected the findings of a UN fact-finding probe into the offensive launched on the Gaza Strip last December. The report pointed to evidence of war crimes committed by both the Israeli army and Palestinian militants.

There is evidence that both the Israeli army and Palestinian militants committed war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity, during the recent conflict over the Gaza Strip, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

"The mission concluded that actions amounting to war crimes, and possibly in some respects crimes against humanity, were committed by the Israel Defense Force," U.N. investigator Richard Goldstone told reporters.

A summary of his nearly 600-page report on the fact-finding mission's conclusions also said the firing of rockets into Israel by Palestinian militants where there were no military targets would also constitute war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity.

Israel reacted quickly, saying in a statement issued by its diplomatic mission in Geneva that it did not cooperate with Goldstone's investigation.

"Its mandate was clearly one-sided and ignored the thousands of Hamas (Palestinian militants) missile attacks on civilians in southern Israel that made the Gaza operation necessary," the statement said.

Goldstone responded to Israeli attacks live on FRANCE 24. “I encourage critics in Israel to go back on the facts and tell us exactly what we’ve got wrong” before rejecting the report, he said. “Ad hominem attacks on me or our very even-handed mandate doesn’t advance the argument”, he added.

The chief investigator recommended to the U.N. Security Council that it demand that Israel launch investigations into possible crimes committed by its forces that are "independent and in conformity with international standards" and establish a committee of human rights experts to monitor any such proceedings.

If Israel fails to do so, then the 15-nation council should refer the situation in Gaza to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the summary said.

A Gaza observer group has said over 900 of more than 1,400 Palestinians killed in the conflict were civilians. Israel said just under 300 civilians and some 900 fighters were killed. Thirteen Israelis, 10 soldiers and three civilians, died.

Israel has rejected international criticism of an offensive it said was launched to curb rocket attacks on its towns by Hamas in Gaza -- attacks which human rights groups also condemn as war crimes. Israel says it is investigating allegations but has not yet found cause to prosecute any of its soldiers.

Date created : 2009-09-15

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