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Middle East
Gaza report vote delay angers Hamas
Palestinian Authority accused of "betrayal" for backing delay in voting on report.
Last Modified: 03 Oct 2009 08:59 GMT

Israel was heavily criticised in Richard Goldstone's report into the 22-day war [File: EPA]

Hamas officials have condemned as "betrayal" the Palestinian Authority's decision to support a delay in voting on the UN-sanctioned report on Israel's war on the Gaza Strip.

The West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA) on Friday backed moves to postpone the vote at the UN Human Rights Council until March, saying the postponement would help in achieving greater consensus on adopting the report.

"This ... represents a betrayal of the Palestinian cause and confirms the extent of the collaboration between Abbas [Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas] and his aides with the Zionist enemy, against the Palestinian people," Mushir al-Masri, a Hamas legislator, said on Friday.

Fawzi Barhoum, a senior Hamas official, echoed al-Masri's remarks, accusing  Abbas of helping Israel protect its leaders from international prosecution over the 22-day conflict in December-January, which left more than 1,400 Palestinians dead.

Ten Israeli soldiers and three Israeli civilians were killed during the offensive.

"We insist that leaders of the occupation must be brought before international courts as war criminals and anyone who sought to prevent that from happening would be seen as partner in the crime," he said.

'Fullest consensus'

But Imad Zuhairi, the Palestinian deputy permanent observer at the Human Rights Council, told Al Jazeera that the "historic importance" of the resolution meant it was important to get the fullest possible consensus at the 47-member body.

Adoption of the report would mean that it is referred to the UN Security Council for further action.

IN DEPTH


 Video interview: Richard Goldstone
 Timeline: Gaza War
 Analysis: War crimes in Gaza?
 Goldstone's full report to the UN human rights council
 UN inquiry finds Gaza war crimes
 'Half of Gaza war dead civilians'

The Palestinian delegation said that there was also a realisation that current attempts to renew negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians would be severely impacted by an insistence that the vote be held at this stage.

On Thursday, Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said any action to endorse the report would strike a fatal blow to the stalled peace process between Israelis and the Palestinians.

The Council had been due to vote on Friday on a resolution that would have condemned Israel's failure to co-operate with Richard Goldstone's investigation into alleged war crimes during the conflict.

But Zamir Akram, Pakistan's representative, said that the co-sponsors of the resolution - the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Arab group, the African group and the Non-Aligned Movement (Nam) - had requested that discussion of the resolution be deferred to allow more time for members to consider the findings.

Nimr Hamad, an aide to Abbas, defended the decision, saying: "The report wasn't withdrawn ... It's still there."

A Palestinian official told the Reuters news agency that the delay had been requested by the US, European Union and Russia.

'Awkward position'

Mustafa Barghouti, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, said that the move had put the Palestinian Authority in an "extremely awkward position".

"Their move was totally unacceptable, unjustified and the public here is very angry at it"

Mustafa Barghouti,
Palestinian Legislative Council member

"Their move was totally unacceptable, unjustified and the public here is very angry at it," he told Al Jazeera from the West Bank town of Ramallah.

"There is no justification for postponing the approval of that report and all human rights organisation, most political organisations in Palestine are against that decision.

"Goldstone has indicated that there were seven war crimes that took place in Gaza and the Israeli government and those responsible have to be accountable to the law and the international community.

"Regardless of the position of the PA, I think the civil society and different political and human rights organisation are going to proceed in demanding sanctions, actions against the Israeli apartheid system and the war criminals that committed these crimes."

War crimes

The report concluded that both the Israeli armed forces and Palestinian fighters committed war crimes in the conflict, but it was more critical of Israel, saying that its soldiers deliberately targeted civilians and used disproportionate force.

Esther Brimmer, the US assistant-secretary of state for international organisation affairs, welcomed the decision to delay the vote, saying that Washington would now concentrate on working towards renewing negotiations between the two sides.

"We appreciate the decision to defer consideration of the Goldstone report and will continue to focus on working with Israel and the Palestinian Authority to relaunch permanent status negotiations as soon as possible,"she said.

"We also encourage domestic investigations of credible allegations of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law."

Goldstone has recommended that the Security Council refer the matter to the International Criminal Court if the two sides fail to conduct credible domestic investigations into the report's findings within six months.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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