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UN rights body set to defer action on Gaza war crimes | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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GENEVA, (Reuters) – The Palestinian delegation has agreed to put off taking action on a U.N. report critical of Israeli war crimes in Gaza, its ambassador said on Friday.

A diplomatic source said that the move had followed intense pressure by the United States, which recently joined the rights forum, as the Obama administration seeks to restart peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Palestinian ambassador Ibrahim Khraishi said that his delegation would not give up what he called the “legal track” and planned to pursue the issue at the U.N. Human Rights Council in March.

The Council had been due to vote on Friday on an Arab resolution which would have condemned Israel’s failure to cooperate with a U.N. war crimes investigation led by Richard Goldstone and forwarded his report to the Security Council.

“It will be deferred for the coming session, giving more time to all the parties, Israelis and Palestinians, to discuss a very important and historic report,” Khraishi told Reuters. “We insist that the legal track is helping the political one,” he added, referring to the Middle East peace process.

Formal negotiations on Palestinian statehood have been suspended since the Gaza conflict.

A diplomatic source told Reuters: “There is agreement to defer given immense pressure from the United States.”

A formal announcement was expected later on Friday, either by Khraishi or by Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), a co-sponsor of the resolution.

The investigation by Goldstone, a former U.N. war crimes prosecutor, found both the Israeli military and Hamas militants committed war crimes during the December-January war.

A Palestinian rights group says 1,417 Palestinians, including 926 civilians, were killed in the Gaza war. Israel has said 709 Palestinian combatants, 295 civilians and 162 people whose status it was unable to clarify were killed.

Israel lost 10 soldiers and 3 civilians in the offensive.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that the United Nations would deal a “fatal blow” to prospects for Israel-Palestinian peace if it endorsed the report — which was more critical of Israel’s military conduct.

Goldstone’s report urges the Security Council to refer the allegations to the International Criminal Court in the Hague if either Israeli or Palestinian authorities fail to investigate and prosecute those suspected of such crimes within six months.

In a briefing to reporters after the Israeli cabinet met, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said Netanyahu’s government was discussing the possibility of setting up an independent commission to look into the military’s conduct of the Gaza war.

Khraishi, asked whether the Palestinians were prepared to investigate allegations of war crimes by its side, replied: “Everybody should respect its obligations. We should take responsibility.”

The United States has recently joined the 47-member state forum in Geneva, which ends a three-week session on Friday. Its next regular session is in March.