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Israel, Hamas trade accusations on war crimes.

Summary: Palestinian Hamas called Wednesday for Israeli leaders to be put on trial as Israeli leaders launched a diplomatic offensive against a damming U.N. report that accused both sides of war crimes during

Palestinian Hamas called Wednesday for Israeli leaders to be put on trial as Israeli leaders launched a diplomatic offensive against a damming U.N. report that accused both sides of war crimes during the Gaza war at the turn of the year.

Weighing in on the furor, the United States said Wednesday it had concerns about "some of the recommendations" in the United Nations report on Israel's assault of the Gaza Strip eight months ago. The U.N. fact-finding report released late on Tuesday said evidence showed that the Israeli army and Palestinian fighters in Gaza committed war crimes and maybe crimes against humanity during their 22-day conflict.

"The U.N. report constitutes irrefutable proof that the Zionist occupier committed crimes against humanity," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum said in a statement following the release late Tuesday of the report into Israel's war in Gaza.

"After this explicit report, the international community should bring the leaders of the Zionist enemy as war criminals before the International Criminal Court," he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avidgor Lieberman, President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were set to telephone their counterparts abroad -- especially the five permanent members of the Security Council - to stress what they said was its bias and one-sidedness, the left-leaning Haaretz daily said Wednesday.

Barack aides told Israeli radio Wednesday that the report was "a prize for terrorism."

War crimes and the ICC

The report reserved some of its harshest language Israeli actions, including deliberately attacking civilians and failing to take precautions to minimize loss of civilian life. It cited strong evidence Israeli forces committed "grave breaches" of the Geneva Convention.

The report recommended that the U.N. Human Rights Council submit the report to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, which could lead to charges being brought against senior Israeli officials involved in the war.

"The goal is to avoid a slippery slope which would lead Israel to the International Criminal Court in The Hague," Haaretz quoted a senior official as saying.

It also said the foreign ministry expected Arab states would prepare a draft resolution calling for the report to be transferred to the Security Council, which could also decide to transfer the matter to ICC.

Blasted from both sides

Israel has said it launched Operation Cast Lead in Gaza on Dec. 27 in response to rocket fire from the territory, which was under a crippling Israeli-imposed blockade. About 1,400 Palestinans, mostly civilians, and 13 Israelis, three civilians, were killed in the war.

Both sides have blasted the report for putting them on the same footing, with Israel saying it was defending itself against Gaza rocket fire and Hamas saying it was defending the territory against an occupying force.

"The report effectively ignores Israel's right of self-defense," an Israeli foreign ministry statement said late on Tuesday.

Hamas, on the other hand, said the report legitimized resistance. "The resistance of the Palestinian people... is legitimate and guaranteed by international law and was waged in reaction to (the Israeli aggression)," aid Barhum.

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Publication:Al Arabiya (Saudi Arabia)
Date:Sep 15, 2009
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