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Israeli ministers to discuss Gaza war inquiry

Israeli ministers to discuss Gaza war inquiry

Israeli leaders are to discuss Tuesday whether to set up an independent panel to investigate the military's conduct during the winter war in Gaza _ a move that could scuttle efforts to bring Israel before a war crimes tribunal.
International pressure to set up a commission of inquiry mounted last week after the U.N. Human Rights Council endorsed a U.N. report accusing Israel and Gaza's Islamic Hamas rulers of war crimes.
That vote, and a council resolution that singled out Israel but did not mention Hamas, could potentially set in motion further moves to refer Israel to international war crimes prosecutors. Although Washington likely would block any such move in the U.N. Security Council, the Human Rights Council's vote has kept attention on the report that has badly tarnished Israel's image.
An independent Israeli probe, however, could blunt the U.N. report's effect. The report's authors recommended that both sides to the conflict carry out impartial probes as a means to stave off war crimes proceedings. Leading Israeli allies have urged Israel to set up such a panel.
The report's lead author, a veteran war crimes prosecutor with close ties to Israel, has personally urged Israel to hold an independent probe.
"If the Israeli government set up an appropriate, open investigation, that would really be the end of the matter," as far as Israel is concerned, former South African judge Richard Goldstone said in a conference call with a group of U.S. rabbis earlier this week. A recording of the conversation has been posted on the Internet.
However, an aide to Benjamin Netanyahu said the Israeli prime minister hasn't decided whether a commission of inquiry should be formed. Netanyahu initially had opposed such a panel and has said the report's findings encourage terrorism.
No decision was expected at Tuesday's meeting of Israel's security cabinet, a group of ministers with security responsibilities.
The Goldstone report on Gaza was commissioned by the Human Rights Council, a U.N. body perceived in Israel as hostile to the Jewish state. It set off an uproar here and Israeli officials have largely dismissed is as biased. Israel did not cooperate with the Goldstone team on the ground.
Israel attacked Gaza last December in a bid to end eight years of relentless rocket fire by Palestinian militants. Some 1,400 Palestinians, including more than 900 civilians, were killed in the three-week war, according to Palestinian officials and human rights groups. Thirteen Israelis, including four civilians, also died.
The 575-page Goldstone report concluded that Israel used disproportionate force, deliberately targeted civilians, used Palestinians as human shields and destroyed civilian infrastructure during the incursion. It also accused armed Palestinian groups including Hamas of deliberately targeting civilians and trying to spread terror through years of rocket attacks on southern Israel.
Each sides has rejected the war crimes allegations against it.


Updated : 2021-10-23 16:55 GMT+08:00