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Israeli denials of air strike on Gaza flour mill disputed by UN

Doubts have been cast on the Israeli rebuttal of the Goldstone Report after it emerged last night that a bomb was defused last year at a Gaza flour mill that Israel had officially said did not come under air attack during last year's war.

The presence of a large part of the fractured Mk 82 bomb was reported to a demining team at the end of January 2009, and technicians were dispatched to defuse the 500lb device the following month. The flour mill is the only one in Gaza, and the Goldstone Report, commissioned by the United Nations, said its destruction “was carried out for the purpose of denying sustenance to the civilian population”.

The discrepancy in accounts of what happened at the flour mill came to light on a day in which domestic and international debate over the Goldstone Report and Israel's response was fuelled by a reprimand issued to two high-ranking officers.

Israel said a brigadier general and a colonel had “exceeded their authority in a manner that jeopardised the lives of others” by authorising the firing of artillery shells into the area of the main UN compound in Gaza. UN officials had described how the attack — which destroyed the UN warehouse — scattered burning white phosphorus through the compound.

The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to decide whether to order an independent investigation into the Gaza offensive or face the possible fresh moves, threatened in the Goldstone Report, for an external war crimes probe to be launched.

The official update of Israel's own investigations says that inquiries by the military's Advocate General had found that the mill did come under ground attack, but that he “did not find any evidence to support the assertion that the mill was attacked from the air using precise munitions”.

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