Last Updated: Wed Nov 03, 2010 12:57 pm (KSA) 09:57 am (GMT)

UN assembly calls for probes of Gaza war crimes

A Palestinian stands on the rubble of the bombed headquarters of the National Guard in Gaza City
A Palestinian stands on the rubble of the bombed headquarters of the National Guard in Gaza City

In a move that angered Israel, the U.N. General Assembly voted early on Friday to urge the Jewish state and Palestinians to investigate war crimes charges leveled in a controversial U.N. report on the Gaza war.

The Arab-drafted resolution is nonbinding and unlikely to lead to inquiries by either Israel or the militant Palestinian Hamas movement that rules Gaza into their conduct during the December-January conflict.

But the outcome was seen by Arab states as a public relations coup and a public discomfiture for Israel, which has reacted with outrage to the findings of the U.N. report, as have American Jewish groups.

Israel rejected on Friday the U.N. General Assembly’s resolution and condemned the world body as "completely detached from realities."

"Israel rejects the resolution of the U.N. General Assembly, which is completely detached from realities on the ground that Israel must face," the Foreign Ministry statement issued by spokesman Yigal Palmor said

Overwhelming support

 Israel rejects the resolution of the U.N. General Assembly, which is completely detached from realities on the ground that Israel must face 
Yigal Palmor

The vote, capping a two-day debate in the 192-member assembly on a controversial U.N. report that has accused both sides of war crimes during the 22-day conflict in the Gaza Strip, was 114 in favor and 18 against, with 44 abstentions.

Israel, which had strenuously opposed the UN report, voted against as did its staunchest ally, the United States, along with Australia and a few European countries.

Many European Union countries, including Britain, France, Sweden and Spain, abstained after failing to secure amendments to the text, including one that would have dropped references to possible Security Council action if the report's findings are not implemented. Russia also abstained.

The text endorsed a U.N. report by a panel led by respected former international prosecutor Richard Goldstone that accused both Israel and the Palestinians of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during the 22-day Gaza conflict that ended in January.

Goldstone, a South African Jew, recommended that Israel and the Islamist movement Hamas that rules Gaza face possible prosecution before the International Criminal Court in The Hague if they fail to conduct credible, independent investigations within six months.

The assembly resolution also called on both Israel and the Palestinian side to conduct, within a period of three months, investigations "that are independent, credible and in conformity with international standards."

US position

Explaining his country's "no" vote, U.S. deputy ambassador Alejandro Wolff stressed that Washington "strongly supports accountability for human rights and humanitarian law violations in relation to the Gaza conflict."

"Our goal is to achieve genuine accountability in a way that respects internal processes and the ongoing efforts to restart permanent status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians," he however added.

Yahya Mahmassani, the permanent observer of the 22-member Arab Leahue, welcomed the adoption of the resolution as "a very good result."

"This is a victory for justice and accountability," he added, saying the Arab sponsors would consider their next step after hopefully receiving a report from UN chief Ban Ki-moon on implementation of this resolution within three months.

A key finding of the Goldstone report was that Israel used disproportionate force in response to repeated rocket attacks by Gaza-based militants and failed to take adequate measures to protect civilians during its Gaza onslaught.

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