UNITED NATIONS — Palestinians called Wednesday for global action to punish Israel for alleged war crimes during its military assault on Gaza last winter, warning that the credibility of the United Nations and international human rights law was at stake.
The demand was based on the findings of a commission headed by former South African judge Richard Goldstone that accused both Israeli forces and Palestinian militants of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during their Dec. 27-Jan. 18 war.
Israel immediately rejected the commission's report, calling it "one-sided, biased and therefore wrong."
The report became the focus of the Security Council's monthly Mideast meeting Wednesday after an about-face by the Palestinians.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Al-Malki and Israel's U.N. Ambassador Gabriela Shalev opened the council meeting — which is expected to hear from more than 40 speakers — by trading accusations about the Goldstone report.
The U.N. Human Rights Council commissioned the report and took it up in early October, but Palestinian diplomats agreed to delay consideration until March under heavy pressure from the United States. The U.S. feared it would jeopardize attempts to revive the Mideast peace process.
The call for a delay sparked scathing criticism of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and led the Palestinians to reverse course, first seeking an emergency Security Council meeting and then seeking to reopen the Human Rights Council debate, scheduled today.
The Goldstone report concluded that Israel used disproportionate force, deliberately targeted civilians, used Palestinians as human shields and destroyed civilian infrastructure during its incursion into Gaza to root out Palestinian rocket squads.
It also accused Palestinian armed groups of deliberately targeting civilians and trying to spread terror through its rocket attacks on southern Israel. Hamas, the Palestinian Authority's main rival, controls Gaza and most armed groups in the territory.
The draft resolution to be considered at this week's Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva would condemn Israel's failure to cooperate with Goldstone's fact-finding mission and endorse the report's recommendations. The council is expected to vote on the resolution Friday, and approval will likely return the issue to the Security Council.