Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Palestinians: UN chief should monitor Gaza probe

The Palestinians and their allies called on United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon to monitor the Gaza war crimes investigations.

They say Mr Ban should check whether Israel and Hamas were conducting credible probes into alleged abuses during their conflict last winter.

The proposal was contained in a draft resolution circulated to members of the UN Human Rights Council before a debate today on a report which accuses Israeli forces and Palestinian militants of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.

Nearly 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed during the December 27-January 18 war.

Israel has tried to discredit the report and its authors, claiming the panel of UN experts led by former South African judge Richard Goldstone was biased against the Jewish state.

Hamas - which controls the Gaza Strip - has sought to capitalise on the report's criticism of Israel while downplaying serious allegations the document makes against Palestinian militants.

The Human Rights Council commissioned the report and took it up in early October, but Palestinian diplomats agreed to delay consideration until March under heavy pressure from the US, which feared it would jeopardise attempts to revive the Middle East peace process.

The delay sparked scathing criticism of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and led the Palestinians to reverse course, first seeking an emergency UN Security Council meeting and then seeking to reopen the Human Rights Council debate, which will happen today and tomorrow.

The security council brought forward its monthly Middle East briefing to yesterday and Palestinian foreign minister Riad Al-Malki and Israel's UN ambassador Gabriela Shalev traded accusations about the Goldstone report.

Mr al-Malki called for global action to punish Israel, warning that the credibility of the United Nations and international human rights law was at stake. Mr Shalev said the report "favours and legitimises terrorism" and "denies Israel's right to defend its citizens".

The resolution that Pakistan, Egypt, Nigeria and others proposed to the Human Rights Council last night endorses the Goldstone team's findings. It asks Mr Ban to report back to the rights council in March on whether Israel and the Palestinians are obeying the recommendations calling for impartial and independent probes by both sides and bringing any perpetrators of war crimes to justice.

The Goldstone report concluded that Israel used disproportionate force, deliberately targeted civilians, used Palestinians as human shields, and destroyed civilian infrastructure during its incursion into Gaza to root out Palestinian rocket squads.

It accused Palestinian armed groups, which include Hamas, of deliberately targeting civilians and trying to spread terror through its rocket attacks on southern Israel.

:: Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman has ordered officials to summon Turkey's ambassador in Israel and protest over a Turkish TV series that reportedly portrays Israeli soldiers murdering children.

A statement quoted Mr Lieberman as saying that the programme, screened by Turkish state TV, constituted incitement against Israel "at the most grave level".

Israel TV screened a clip last night that it said was from the series, showing an actor dressed as an Israeli soldier taking aim at a smiling young girl and shooting her in the chest at point-blank range.

Israeli army radio said the show, about the tribulations of a Palestinian family, also depicted troops killing a Palestinian newborn baby delivered after its mother went into labour at an Israeli roadblock.

Muslim Turkey's ties with Israel have deteriorated since Israel's January offensive in the Gaza Strip.

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