Protesters rally against UN report delay

Hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets of Ramallah to express anger over the decision of the Palestinian Authority to support a delay in the endorsement of a UN report on possible Israeli war crimes committed during the Gaza offensive.


AFP - Hundreds of people protested on Monday against the Palestinian Authority's support for delaying the endorsement of a UN report on possible war crimes committed during Israel's Gaza offensive.

The demonstration was held as anger mounted over the UN Human Rights Council's decision to delay consideration of the report compiled by former international war crimes prosecutor Richard Goldstone.

In the West Bank political capital of Ramallah, hundreds of people protested against the decision, waving placards saying the delay "insults the blood of the martyrs and wounds our people."

Another sign read: "Delaying the vote on the Goldstone report frees the hand of (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu in Jerusalem," referring to clashes earlier this week between police and Muslim protesters in the Old City.

The decision was also heavily criticised in the Palestinian media, with an editorial in the Al-Ayyam daily calling it a "scandal."

"The latest scandal... should have never happened, and those responsible for this kind of political corruption should be removed from their posts," it said.

Ismail Haniya, the prime minister of the Hamas-run government in Gaza, accused Western-backed Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas of making the "absurd and criminal" decision to delay endorsement of the report, a move he said endangered Egyptian-brokered national unity talks.

"Abbas gave the orders to delay voting on the report," Haniya told reporters.

"How can the two parties (Fatah and Hamas) sit at one table and sign an agreement in this situation? ... This has placed a heavy obstacle in the way of Palestinian unity," he said.

The adoption of the report by the 49-member council was seen as a key step towards eventually bringing war crimes charges against Israeli leaders and Palestinian militants at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Israel had warned that endorsing the report could endanger US-backed efforts to relaunch the peace process, and Washington was believed to have exerted strong pressure on the Palestinians to drop their support for the vote.

When the Palestinians decided to support delaying the vote, several Arab and Muslim states which had supported its findings followed suit.

In Jerusalem, pro-Palestinian activists protested against the decision at a news conference in front of two homes that were occupied by Israeli settlers over the summer.

"(The decision) was a knife in the backs and in the hearts of all the martyrs," said Jamal al-Jumaa from the Popular Campaign to End the Wall, an organisation that opposes Israel's controversial separation fence.

Mohammed Jadallah, the head of the Coalition for Jerusalem, demanded an apology from Abbas.

"We want president Abbas to apologise for what happened and, if the government had anything to do with the decision, we want it to resign," he said.

The UN report accused both Israel and Palestinian armed groups of committing war crimes during the three-week war in Gaza that erupted on December 27, killing some 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.

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