Israel 'to minimise civilian casualties in future attacks'

Military responds to Goldstone report's accusations of war crimes in Gaza Strip with changes in combat tactics and limit on white phosphorus munitions.

(FILES) -- A picture dated January 17, 2009 shows Palestinian civilians and medics runing to safety during an Israeli strike over a UN school in Beit Lahia, northern Gaza Strip. Israel will restrict its use of white phosphorus munitions and seek to limit civilian casualties in future wars, it said in a report to the UN secretary general released in July 2010. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED ABED

TEL AVIV // Israel said it will take steps to lower the number of civilian casualties in future military campaigns and will limit the use of white phosphorus munitions, as part of its response to the so-called Goldstone report accusing it last year of war crimes in the Gaza Strip. The measures were stated in a new, 37-page document that was posted on Israel's foreign ministry website, and which Israeli officials said was handed to Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general of the United Nations, on Monday. The report came after an Israeli inquiry into its offensive in Gaza in December 2008-January 2009, in which about 1,400 Palestinians were killed and over 5,000 injured.

A UN-mandated investigation into the onslaught, led by Richard Goldstone, a South African judge, charged both Israel and Hamas, the Islamist group that rules Gaza, of war crimes but focused more on Israel. The commission urged both of them to launch probes into the accusations. Israel's report appeared to be in compliance with a resolution made by the 192-member UN General Assembly in November 2009, which called on both Israel and the Palestinians to credibly investigate alleged misconduct during the conflict. The Palestinian Authority's UN delegation has also submitted a progress report to the UN, but it was not immediately available, according to the Reuters news agency.

The Israeli report said: "The Israeli military has implemented operational changes in its orders and combat doctrine designed to further minimise civilian casualties and damage to civilian property in the future." The report added that "important new procedures" adopted to protect civilians in urban warfare include the addition of a humanitarian affairs officer in each combat unit. The country said it will restrict the use of white phosphorus weapons, which are used to make smoke screens to hide military operations, but which can cause serious burns. In the report, Israel also said it had started 47 criminal investigations into alleged violations committed by its soldiers during the Gaza military campaign - 11 more than it had announced in January.