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Goldstone rejects Israeli allegations of bias Gaza report

The head of the UN fact-finding mission into last winter's Gaza war vehemently rejected Wednesday Israel's allegations against the report he wrote about the three weeks of fighting.

world Updated: Sep 17, 2009 07:20 IST

The head of the UN fact-finding mission into last winter's Gaza war vehemently rejected Wednesday Israel's allegations against the report he wrote about the three weeks of fighting.

Israel has reacted sharply to the critical report by South African justice Richard Goldstone, charging among others that the mission's mandate had been one-sided and its conclusions predetermined.

Published on Tuesday, the Goldstone report, the result of a months-long investigation, said the UN commission of inquiry had found "strong evidence" that both Israel and Palestinian militant groups had committed war crimes, and possibly even crimes against humanity, during the Gaza war.

"I'm not surprised, but I'm disappointed," said Goldstone of the Israeli reaction to the report.

"I just feel that there was a very quick rejection of the report I think even before anybody read it," he told, Israel's Channel One state television.

"I deny that completely," he said of the Israeli allegation that the UN mission's mandate - defined by the Human Rights Council which many Israelis regards as openly anti-Israel - had been one-sided.

"I was completely independent. Nobody dictated any outcome and the outcome was a result of the independent inquiries that our mission made," said Goldstone, who is Jewish.

"There is really nothing I could think of that I would do differently," he said, adding his only regret was Israel's decision to refuse to cooperate with the UN investigation.

Of the Israeli allegation that his report served as an encouragement to militancy and dealt a blow to the international struggle against terrorism, he said: "I disagree completely. We've said in various clear terms that the rockets from Gaza, the Hamas rockets, are, constitute very serious war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity, so I think we've said in very round terms that we're against that sort of activity."

He urged Israel to launch an independent inquiry into alleged crimes committed by its forces in Gaza, so as to make international action to bring those responsible to justice unnecessary.

"My first wish and hope is that there'll be open and full inquiries in Israel," adding that Israel had proved in the past that it was capable of doing so.

"It's a matter of political will and that would and should avoid any international court involved."

Israel launched the offensive, which last 22 days, on Dec 27 in a bid to curb near-daily rocket and mortar shells from Gaza at its southern towns and villages.

Human rights groups say some 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed in the massive Israeli bombardments and in ground fighting. Thirteen Israelis were also killed.