'Israel should probe Gaza war', says deputy PM
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Israel's deputy prime minister said on Wednesday Israel should launch its own Gaza investigation to counter the accusations of war crimes in Gaza last December, raised by the UN's recent Goldstone report.
REUTERS - Israel should launch its own Gaza war inquiry to avoid the possibility, raised in a U.N. report it rejects, of war crimes charges against its leaders, Israel's deputy prime minister was quoted on Wednesday as saying.
"A country that investigates itself puts up a roadblock to coming under (legal) assault," Dan Meridor was quoted as saying in an interview in the Haaretz newspaper.
"A commission of inquiry or examination, which I hope will be named, must examine the claims of the Goldstone report."
The U.N. Human Rights Council singled out Israel for censure in a resolution on Friday while endorsing a report by South African jurist Richard Goldstone which condemned both Israeli and Hamas actions in the war last December and January.
Goldstone's report recommended the war crimes issue be referred to the U.N. Security Council if the sides failed to conduct credible domestic investigations within six months, and possibly then to the International Criminal Court.
Meridor's proposal could create tensions for Netanyahu in his coalition government. Defence Minister Ehud Barak of the left-of-centre Labour Party has said he prefers the army conduct its own internal investigation of the findings.
But other cabinet ministers have suggested they would support any effort to refute Goldstone's findings, even if it meant naming a new investigation.
A Palestinian rights group said 1,417 Palestinians, including 926 civilians, were killed in the three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip, territory controlled by Hamas Islamists
Israel has said 709 Palestinian combatants were killed along with 295 civilians and 162 people whose status it was unable to clarify.
Ten Israeli soldiers and three civilians were killed during the campaign, which Israel launched with the declared aim of ending cross-border rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip.
"I have confidence in the (Israeli) military and I must defend it. The most effective tool for defence is a serious self-inquiry," said Meridor, a lawyer and cabinet veteran whose
current job includes overseeing Israeli intelligence services.
Netanyahu has promised a lengthy battle to "delegitimise" Goldstone's findings and instructed government officials at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday to draft proposals for changing international laws of war.
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