UN chief Ban Ki-moon said yesterday he could not determine whether Israel and the Palestinians have met UN demands to carry out credible, independent investigations of alleged war crimes in the Gaza Strip. He made the assessment in a report to the General Assembly which had given both sides until today to conduct independent probes after a UN inquiry panel accused both Israel and Palestinian militants of war crimes during the 22-day conflict in the Gaza Strip more than a year ago.
"No determination can be made on the implementation of the (UN) resolution by the parties concerned," the UN boss said in his report that contains responses provided by Israel and the Palestinians. Israel says it has launched investigations into 150 separate incidents, including 36 criminal probes so far, and gathered evidence from almost 100 Palestinians who had complaints or were witnesses. The Palestinians only created a commission to carry out an investigation in late January, despite a General Assembly resolution in November urging both sides to conduct investigations by today. In a short preface to his 72-page report, nearly all of which is responses by Israel and the Palestinians, Ban Ki-Moon concluded he could not ultimately determine yet whether Israel and the Palestinians had met the General Assembly's demands to carry out credible, independent investigations into their own actions. He said he hoped the assembly's resolution will, in fact, result in probes "that are independent, credible and in conformity with international standards." But, he added that "no determination can be made on the implementation of the resolution by the parties concerned." An expert UN panel found in September that both Israel and Palestinian militants committed war crimes during last winter's fighting, in which 13 Israelis and almost 1,400 Palestinians were killed, including many civilians. The panel's 575-page investigative report, requested by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, was overseen by a respected South African jurist, Richard Goldstone. The report takes note of the formal responses to what has come to known as the "Goldstone report," submitted by the Israeli government and the Palestinians, in which both sides pledge to fully investigate. But the Palestinians take the approach it is unfair to compare Israel's actions with its own. Israel says the military operation against Gaza was launched in self-defense to protect civilians in southern Israel from rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza, which is under the control of the militant Islamic Hamas group. Hamas leaders say they did not target civilians while firing hundreds of rockets at Israeli towns, and that the rockets fired from Gaza were meant to hit military targets but hit civilians by mistake because they are unguided.
* AFP and AP