The U.N. Human Rights Council voted Friday to endorse a Gaza war crimes report and send it to the Security Council, possibly setting up international prosecution of Israelis and Palestinians accused of war crimes.
The council approved a Palestinian-backed resolution after two days of debate on the Goldstone report, which it had commissioned following the Dec. 27-Jan. 18 conflict in which almost 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.
The resolution passed 25-6, with mostly developing countries in favor and the United States and five European countries opposing. Eleven mostly European and African countries abstained, while Britain, France and three other members of the 47-nation body declined to vote.
Israel and the U.S. called the Goldstone report "flawed," and warned that the vote could jeopardize Middle East peace prospects.
Israel's foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, also said endorsing the report could have far-reaching consequences.
"Whoever votes in favor of endorsing the report must understand that next time it will be the soldiers and officers of NATO in Afghanistan, and then Russian soldiers and officers in Chechnya," Lieberman said late Thursday.
U.S. diplomat Douglas M. Griffiths told the council Washington was disappointed with the outcome of the vote. The United States had wanted the report to stay in Geneva, and is likely to veto any action in the 15-member Security Council.
The resolution — which also condemns recent Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories and East Jerusalem — endorses the report's recommendation that both sides in the conflict should show the Security Council within six months that they are carrying out credible investigations into alleged abuses. If they are not, the matter should then be referred to prosecutors at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.
If the report comes to a U.N. Security Council vote, the U.S. is expected to veto any call for ICC involvement or similar action against Israel.
The 575-page report, compiled by an expert group led by Judge Richard Goldstone, concluded that Israel used disproportionate force, deliberately targeted civilians, used Palestinians as human shields and destroyed civilian infrastructure during its incursion into the Gaza Strip to root out Palestinian rocket squads.
It also accused Palestinian armed groups including Hamas of deliberately targeting civilians and trying to spread terror through rocket attacks on southern Israel.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said Thursday it was necessary for both sides "to carry out impartial, independent, prompt and effective investigations into reported violations of human rights and humanitarian law."