UN Sets Date for Gaza Report Debate

The UN General Assembly has said it will meet next week to consider a UN report that accused both Israeli forces and the Palestinian group Hamas of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during the Gaza war last winter.

The report, compiled by a panel led by Richard Goldstone, a South African jurist, was endorsed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council on October 16, which recommended that the General Assembly take it up during the current session.

Jean Victor Nkolo, the General Assembly spokesman, said Ali Treki, the Assembly’s president, had received a letter from the president of the Human Rights Council about the report and requests from Arab nations asking the assembly to consider its findings and recommendations during the first week of November.

The 118-member non-aligned group of mainly developing nations also asked the assembly to consider the report findings and recommendations.

Disproportionate Force

Nkolo said Treki "intends to convene a plenary meeting of the General Assembly on November 4".

The Goldstone report was more critical of Israel than Hamas, accusing its troops of using disproportionate force, deliberately targeting civilians and using Palestinians as human shields in the three-week offensive that raged between last December and January.

About 1,400 Palestinians, a majority of them women and children, and 13 Israelis were killed in the offensive.

The report also accused Israel of destroying civilian infrastructure.

Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, was accused of deliberately targeting civilians and trying to spread terror through rocket attacks on southern Israel.

The report recommended that the UN Security Council ask both sides to carry out credible investigations within three months into alleged abuses during the conflict.

If either side refuses, the investigators recommended that the Security Council refer the evidence for prosecution by the International Criminal Court, the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal, within six months.

Analysts have said that even if the report eventually gets to the Security Council, there is little chance concrete action will be taken due to objections by the US, Israel’s closest ally which has veto power.

US Objections

The US, which was among countries that voted against the Human Rights Council resolution endorsing the report, has said the report is one-sided and should not be taken up by the UN’s most powerful body.

The report has triggered an uproar in Israel with the country’s leaders calling the document biased and accusing the Human Rights Council of being hostile to Israel.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, told a news conference he looked forward to the General Assembly’s debate and decision.

"I will decide my own course of action upon that," he said.

Ban stressed that alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws must be investigated and those responsible should be held accountable.

"I have called repeatedly on both the Israeli government and the Palestinians to carry out full, independent and credible investigations," he said.

(Aljazeera.net English and Agencies)

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