Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai says chief of the United Nations probe into the 2008-09 Gaza war Richard Goldstone has accepted his invitation to visit the occupied Palestinian territories.
The invitation came in the wake of Goldstone’s retraction from remarks in his UN report that held Israel accountable for the three-week long 2008-09 Gaza conflict, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday.
In April 2009, Goldstone led an independent fact-finding mission mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate reports of international human rights and humanitarian law violations during the December 2008-09 offensive, which killed more than 1,400 Palestinians — mostly civilians.
The 2009 Goldstone report, which concluded that Israeli forces had intentionally fired at Palestinian civilians, triggered outrage in Israel against Goldstone, himself a Jew.
The report alleged that the Israeli operations "were carefully planned in all their phases as a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population."
The report also recommended the handing over of the case to an international tribunal if Israel fails to investigate the war crimes committed by its soldiers during the Gaza offensive.
Israel said it launched Operation Cast Lead to thwart what it called repeated rocket attacks on Israeli territory by the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas.
Israel refused to cooperate with Goldstones’ team and dismissed its final conclusion as "biased."
However, in his article in the Washington Post last week, Goldstone wrote that his final report would have been different, if he had possessed existing information in 2009.
He also pointed out that Israeli investigations into alleged misconduct by its security forces showed that "civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy."
The Israeli interior minister said he told Goldstone it was "courageous" to review the key findings of his report and asked him to officially retract it. Yishai did not say whether Goldstone agreed to do so.