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Israel seeks change in war laws after UN report

Tel Aviv & US hold joint drill to prepare for Iran face-off

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed his government to draw up proposals to amend the international laws of war after a damning United Nations report on its bombarment of Gaza as Tel Aviv joined the United States in a major air defense drill in preparation for a faceoff with Iran.

Despite Netanyahu raising the so-called Goldstone report with his security cabinet they did not, however, discuss calls made by ministers for an internal investigation into the 22-day air, land and sea assault at the turn of the year that killed some 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israeli.

"The prime minister instructed the relevant government bodies to examine a worldwide campaign to amend the international laws of war to adapt them to the spread of global terrorism," his office said in a statement.

Israel was dealt a heavy diplomatic blow with the adoption by the U.N. Human Rights Council of the report that accused both Israel and the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip of war crimes.

Israel's closest allies, the United States, Britain and France urged it to investigate war crime allegations raised by the fact-finding missions headed by Richard Goldstone, a former international war crimes prosecutor.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak backed Netanyahu's call for a diplomatic campaign, saying that Israel should propose changes in the international laws of war "in order to facilitate the war on terrorism," an official quoted him as saying.

"It is in the interest of anyone fighting terrorism. We must give the IDF (Israeli army) the full backing to have the freedom of action," Barak said.

Netanyahu dismissed the Goldstone report on the Gaza war and vowed that Israel would not give up its right of self-defense.

"We are struggling to delegitimize the ongoing attempts to delegitimize Israel... We must persistently fight this lie, which is being spread by the Goldstone report," Netanyahu was quoted as saying.

"I want to make it clear: no one will weaken our ability and right to defend our children, citizens and communities."

Goldstone, the respected South African jurist who led the U.N. fact-finding team, recommended that the conclusions of the report be forwarded to the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court at The Hague if the two sides fail to conduct credible investigations into the conflict within six months.

Israel has slammed it as a "diplomatic farce" and warned that it risked sinking the stalled Middle East peace process.

The prime minister instructed the relevant government bodies to examine a worldwide campaign to amend the international laws of war to adapt them to the spread of global terrorism

PM office

Military drill

Meanwhile in other Israeli news, Tel Aviv and the U.S. launched military drills on Wednesday in what Israeli radio said was in preparation for a face-off with Iran.

During the two-week maneuvers, dubbed Juniper Cobra, some 1,000 American personnel will mesh ground- and ship-based missile interceptors like the Aegis, THAAD and Patriot with Israel's Arrow II ballistic shield, defense officials said.

Spokesmen on both sides insisted the biennial drill was unrelated to world events, but Israel Radio quoted an unnamed commander as saying it served "to prepare for a nuclear Iran."

The United States and other world powers are trying to talk Tehran into giving up nuclear technologies with bomb-making potential despite the fact that Israel holds the Middle East's only atomic arsenal.

But some analysts believe that tactical limitations, and U.S. misgivings about pre-emptive strikes, may compel Israel to accept a more defensive posture with the help of its top ally.

Iran denies seeking the bomb and has threatened to retaliate for any attack by firing its medium-range missiles at Israel.


(With Agencies)