UN agrees to 'Goldstone session'

Human rights council will hold special meeting on Gaza report as requested by PA.

    Netanyahu has lashed out against the Goldstone report, which he called 'distorted' [File: EPA]

    The meeting will be the 12th special session of the council, following the Security Council's open debate on the Middle East expected in New York on Wednesday.

    Policy change

    The Palestinians have pressed for a vote on the report at the UN Human Rights Council, effectively a policy reverse by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, whose government had earlier agreed to delay the vote for six months.

    In depth


     Video: Anger at Abbas
     Video: Interview with Richard Goldstone
     Timeline: Gaza War
     Analysis: War crimes in Gaza?
     Goldstone's full report to the UN rights council
     Key points of the Goldstone report
     UN inquiry finds Gaza war crimes
     'Half of Gaza war dead civilians'
     PLO: History of a Revolution
     'Israel has to be accountable'
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    That decision, apparently made under US pressure, sparked sharp criticism and protests across Palestinian society.

    Should a vote takes place by the council, the matter could be referred to higher UN bodies that could, in theory, push for a war-crimes prosecution.

    The news of the UN special session comes a day after Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, lashed out against the Goldstone report, which criticises Israel for deliberately targeting civilians during its war on Gaza earlier this year.

    He called the report, compiled by a team led by Richard Goldstone, a South African judge, a "distorted report, written by this distorted committee".

    "This report encourages terrorism and threatens peace," he said, and announced that he would never allow any of the country's leaders or soldiers to be put on trial for war crimes.

    Disproportionate force

    The Goldstone report accuses Israel of using disproportionate force, deliberately targeting civilians and destroying civilian infrastructure during a three-week offensive against Hamas from December to January.

    The report, which focused primarily on the actions of Israel, also accused Hamas of war crimes by deliberately targeting civilians and trying to spread terror with rocket attacks.

    Israeli officials across the board have condemned the report, saying their country had little choice but to respond to those rockets.

    They also blame Hamas for civilian casualties in Gaza, saying fighters from the Palestinian faction which has de facto control of the territory, took cover in residential areas during the war.

    But Goldstone's strong credentials as a respected jurist, his Jewish faith and past support for Israeli causes have made it hard for Israel to dismiss the claims.

    About 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis died as a result of the 22-day Gaza conflict which lasted from December into January.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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