Israel rejects Gaza war crimes accusations in UN response

JERUSALEM, Jan 29, (AFP) - Israel handed the United Nations on Friday a report on its military investigations into the Gaza war, rejecting accusations of war crimes and refusing to say whether it will hold an independent inquiry.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon's office confirmed he had received a letter from Israel responding to allegations and that he “was working on his response” to the UN General Assembly. The Palestinian observer to the United Nations also said he had handed over his government's report on war crimes allegedly committed by Palestinian militants during the brief but bloody conflict.

Israel's 46-page report said its army had examined 150 reports of wrongdoing during last year's war, of which 36 had been referred to criminal investigation. While admitting several fatal errors in judgment, the report denied any violations of international law during the war in which some 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.

“The complexity and scale of such operations means that inevitably there are tragic instances, mistakes, and errors of judgment. Tragic results, including civilian death and damage to property do not necessarily mean that violations of international law have occurred,” it said.

The 36 cases under criminal investigation included 34 incidents addressed by a fact-finding mission by the UN Human Rights Council headed by South African international war crimes prosecutor Richard Goldstone, the report said.

“I think this report again proves the fact that the IDF (Israel Defence Force) is the most responsible and serious army and operates in the most moral way,” Defence Minister Ehud Barak said in a statement earlier on Friday.

He called the Goldstone report -- which accused both Israel and Palestinian armed groups of war crimes during the three weeks of fighting -- “distorted, biased and unbalanced.”Hamas has also denied accusations of war crimes.

At the United Nations, Palestinian observer Riyad Mansour said the Palestinian Authority “met the deadline in submitting what is required of it,”referring to a call by the UN General Assembly last November for Israel and Hamas to conduct independent probes of the allegations by February 5.

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