Palestinians to Seek Justice Against Israel for Alleged War Crimes

The Palestinians on Wednesday warned Israel they will seek justice for war crimes allegedly committed during last winter's Gaza conflict in the U.N. Security Council and through the International Criminal Court.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. observer, urged the 192-member General Assembly to support a resolution, stemming from a report by South African Judge Richard Goldstone, that calls on Israel and the Palestinians to carry out independent investigations of human rights violations.

Mansour also insisted Israel's "aggressions and crimes" cannot be equated "with actions committed in response by the Palestinian side."

Stressing that "peace cannot be achieved without justice," Mansour said: "We are determined to follow up this report and its recommendations in all relevant international forums, including the Security Council and the International Criminal Court, until the realization of justice."

But Israel's U.N. Ambassador Gabriela Shalev warned that "the Goldstone report and this debate do not promote peace — they damage any effort to revitalize negotiations in our region."

Goldstone's report recommended the Security Council require both sides to carry out credible investigations into alleged abuses during the conflict — in which 13 Israelis and almost 1,400 Palestinians, including hundreds of civilians, were killed, and thousands wounded — and to follow that up with action in their courts.

If either side refuses, the investigators recommended the Security Council refer the evidence for prosecution by the International Criminal Court, the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal.

Shalev told the General Assembly the report ignored "the reality of terror" from the 12,000 rockets and mortars fired by Hamas militants from Gaza into southern Israel — "and the complexity of military challenges in fighting terrorists in urban warfare."

She dismissed the Goldstone panel as "a politicized body with predetermined conclusions."

"Rather than discuss how to better stop terrorist groups who deliberately target civilians, this body launches yet another campaign against the victims of terrorism, the people of Israel," Shalev said.

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

It accused Palestinian armed groups of deliberately targeting civilians and trying to spread terror through its rocket attacks on southern Israel. Hamas, the main rival to the Palestinian Authority which Mansour represents, controls Gaza and most armed groups in the territory.

The Goldstone panel accused both Israeli forces and Palestinian militants of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.

"Time and again," Shalev said, "the report inverts Israel's unprecedented extensive efforts to save civilian lives as proof that any civilian casualties were therefore deliberate."

Shalev also criticized the report for dismissing Israel's independent legal system, its investigations of misconduct in the armed forces, and its right to self-defense.

The draft resolution asks Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to report to the General Assembly, within three months, on implementation "with a view to considering further action, if necessary, by the relevant United Nations organs and bodies, including by the Security Council."

Mansour said the Palestinians will not be deterred by criticism of the Goldstone report and predicted that the resolution will "absolutely" be approved, with a vote probably on Thursday.