UNITED NATIONS, (AP) – The militant Islamist group Hamas is trying to take cynical advantage of a U.N. report accusing Israel of possible war crimes in Gaza to curry favor back home, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki told reporters at U.N. headquarters Thursday.
The Palestinian Authority initially pushed for the Security Council to look into accusations Israel used disproportionate force and failed to protect civilians during its Dec. 27-Jan. 18 incursion into Gaza.
Thirteen Israelis and almost 1,400 Palestinians were killed during the conflict. Israel has rejected the war crimes allegations, declining to cooperate with the probe, fearing bias.
The report also accuses Palestinian armed groups of possible war crimes in the Israeli-Hamas conflict last winter. Hamas, the Palestinian Authority’s main rival, controls Gaza.
Last week, the Palestinian leadership backed off bringing the report before the Security Council under pressure from U.S., sparking harsh criticism, including angry protests at home and condemnation around the Arab world and causing them to reconsider their position.
“This clear crisis about the report proves that the Hamas position is really trying to exploit it, to its own favor, trying to take advantage of it, and really score points, rather than having a genuine principled position regarding the report,” Malki said.
On Wednesday, the Palestinian leadership again switched gears. It reversed itself by strongly backing Security Council member Libya’s push to hold the 15-nation council’s monthly debate on the Middle East a week earlier than planned and provide a high-profile forum for the explosive report to be discussed.
Malki said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement — which lost power in Gaza when it was overrun by Hamas militants in 2007 — remains “far apart” in any potential deal with Hamas to reconcile and hold Palestinian elections. The Egyptians hope to broker a deal in Cairo this month.
Malki said the Palestinian leadership supports “all the recommendations” contained in the U.N. report on Gaza and had dispatched him to New York to press the case on Thursday for having the Security Council or other arms of the United Nations take up the findings.
The 575-page Goldstone report accused Israel of using disproportionate force and failing to protect civilians while calling Hamas’ firing of rockets at civilian areas in southern Israel a war crime.