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Israel Challenges Findings of U.N. Report on Gaza War

Israel has opened an international campaign to protest a United Nations report, which ruled it committed war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity during its offensive on the Gaza Strip earlier this year.

The report, compiled by a commission headed by former war crimes prosecutor Richard Goldstone, accuses both Israel and the Palestinians of actions amounting to war crimes during the December 27-January 18 battle in the Hamas-ruled territory.

The Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that Israel was “appalled and disappointed” by the damning report. “The UN body has dealt a huge blow to governments seeking to defend their citizens from terror,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor.

In particular, said Palmor, the commission’s equation of Hamas to Israel in its 600 page report was “appalling and disappointing.”

The Israeli campaign is aimed at preventing a discussion on the report in the United Nations Security Council.

Palmor said the report’s conclusions were “so disconnected with realities on ground that one cannot but wonder on which planet was the Gaza Strip they visited.”

President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman are expected to appeal to foreign leaders starting on Wednesday for support on the matter.

“This is going to be a long legal and diplomatic operation,” said a senior Israel official familiar with the report. “We’ll get our friends across the world active, especially the United States, to prevent the isolation of Israel.”

Israel’s envoy to the United Nations, Gabriela Shalev, on Tuesday called the commission’s findings even “harsher” than Israel could have imagined.

“We did not want to cooperate with the commission from the beginning, because its mandate has always been one-sided,” said Shalev. “The Human Rights Council is known as a body constantly critical of Israel.

“We knew the report would be biased and one-sided, but did not anticipate that it would be so harsh,” she added.

Shalev, a professor of law, said that Israel was committed to international law. She added that the Israel Defense Forces has already investigated more than 100 complaints of misconduct during Operation Cast Lead.

The Foreign Ministry reiterated Shalev’s stance, saying: “Israel knew it could not cooperate with the commission, due to the one-sided mandate, which ignores the thousands of rockets Hamas fired at civilians in southern Israel — that which made the offensive on Gaza necessary.

“Israel is completely committed to acting in accordance with international law and investigate every claim of misconduct perpetrated by its forces,” add the Foreign Ministry.

Following the report, nine Israeli human rights groups called on the government to conduct its own probe of the war.

“Human rights organizations in Israel believe that the State of Israel must conduct an independent and impartial investigation into these suspicions and to cooperate with an international monitoring mechanism that would guarantee both the independence of that investigation and the implementation of its conclusions,” said the groups in a statement.

“The groups expect the Government of Israel to respond to the substance of the report?s findings and to desist from its current policy of casting doubt upon the credibility of anyone who does not adhere to the establishment’s narrative.”

The signatories included the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Adalah, Bimkom, B’Tselem, Gisha, HaMoked, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and Yesh Din.

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