Israel hit back Friday at claims by a United Nations report on its Gaza offensive last winter, charging in a written response submitted to the UN that the so-called Goldstone report was inaccurate, as Israel had abided by rules of war in investigating claims of war crimes.
Israel launched Operation Cast Lead in late December 2008, following heavy rocket fire from Gaza on its southern communities. The UN Human Rights Council commission of inquiry into the three-week offensive was headed by retired South African justice Richard Goldstone.
The Goldstone report charged both Israel and Hamas with war crimes, as well as acts that amounted to crimes against humanity. The UN report found that the conflict was dominated by Israel’s military superiority, had killed 1,400 Palestinians and caused widespread damage to properties in Gaza.
But in a 46-page document entitled “Gaza Operation Investigations: Update,” Israel emphasized Friday its commitment to “full compliance with the Law of Armed Conflict, and to investigating every allegation of violations, irrespective of the source of the allegation.”
Israel describes its report issued Friday as a follow-on to a paper released in July 2009, entitled “The Operation in Gaza: Factual and Legal Aspects.” The initial document, Israel says, “addressed a range of factual and legal issues related to the Gaza Operation, including the thousands of missile attacks that necessitated the Operation, and the deliberate Hamas entrenchment in civilian areas which made combat so complex and challenging.”
Israel also said Friday that the latest document “is not intended as a comprehensive rebuttal of the Human Rights Council Fact-Finding Report or a catalogue of the Report’s flaws. The Paper does, however, note some of the Report’s inaccuracies and misrepresentations of Israel’s investigative system.”
Defense Minister Ehud Barak repeated Israeli criticism of the Goldstone report Friday. In his confirmation that the response had been submitted to the UN, Barak said that the UN document was “false, distorted, and irresponsible.”
The human rights council had urged the UN General Assembly to debate the Goldstone report and then refer the alleged crimes to the International Criminal Court at The Hague. That proposal has so far been not been acted upon.
Instead, the General Assembly asked for its own report based on submissions from both sides - following another recommendation from the 547-page Goldstone report that both Israel and Hamas conduct their own investigations.
In the report that Israel handed to the UN on Friday, it emphasized that its system of investigating alleged war crimes is comparable to the systems adopted by other democratic nations.
“To date,” the Israeli report states, “the IDF has launched investigations into 150 separate incidents arising from the Gaza Operation. Of the 150 incidents, so far 36 have been referred for criminal investigation. Criminal investigators have taken statements from almost 100 Palestinian complainants and witnesses, along with approximately 500 IDF soldiers and commanders.”
Hamas has also rejected claims that it committed war crimes, saying Thursday that it had not deliberately targeted Israeli civilians with the rocket fire from Gaza.