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Thursday, September 17, 2009

World Digest: Israel Rejects Probe Of Gaza War Conduct

Israel on Wednesday rejected a U.N. panel's call to open an independent inquiry into its wartime conduct in the Gaza Strip and launched a diplomatic campaign to thwart any prosecution of its soldiers in an international tribunal.

Officials said President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other senior ministers were telephoning counterparts abroad in an effort to discredit a harshly critical report by the fact-finding panel. The report concluded that both sides committed war crimes during an Israeli offensive last winter that took aim at rocket-firing militants in the Palestinian enclave but also left hundreds of civilians dead.

Peres declared at a news conference that the report, issued Tuesday by South African judge Richard Goldstone, is one-sided and "makes a mockery of history."

"It draws no distinction between the attacker and the attacked," Peres said. "The report essentially grants legitimacy to acts of terrorism, shooting and killing, and ignores the right and duty of any country to self-defense, as outlined in the U.N. charter."

Israel's assertive response reflected official concern that the 22-day assault on Gaza was a diplomatic and strategic defeat for the Jewish state, even though it has sharply reduced rocket fire from the Hamas-ruled territory.