A report listing the findings of a United Nations investigation has accused the Israel Defense Forces of committing "actions amounting to war crimes" during Israel's counterterrorist Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.
The U.N. probe was led by former South African judge Richard Goldstone, whose report said Israel's actions might also be considered "crimes against humanity."
Goldstone added in the report that the incessant rocket attacks on southern Israel's civilian population that had sparked the military operation in the first place might also be considered war crimes.
"There is also evidence that Palestinian armed groups committed war crimes, as well as possibly crimes against humanity" by firing rockets and mortars at Israeli citizens," according to the 575-page report. "Where there is no intended military target and the rockets and mortars are launched into civilian areas, they constitute a deliberate attack against the civilian population," said the report. "These actions would constitute war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity."
Report Called Hamas Buildings 'Civilian Objects'
The report, which cited seven incidents in which IDF soldiers allegedly deliberately gunned down PA Arab civilians as they ran for cover while waving white flags, will be presented to the U.N. Human Rights Council later this month.
The report also alleges "a director and intentional attack" on Gaza City's Al Quds Hospital and the ambulance station next door. It also cited an incident in which it said that the IDF fired at a mosque during prayer services, killing 15 worshippers, and had shelled a house where soldiers had forced PA civilians to assemble in the Samouni neighborhood of Zeitoun, south of Gaza City. Also cited were accusations by PA Arabs that they had been used by IDF soldiers as human shields while their houses were searched.
In addition, the report condemned the IDF for attacking "buildings and persons of the Gaza authorities," saying "there is no evidence that the Legislative Council building and the Gaza main prison made an effective contribution to military action," and referred to both as "civilian objects."
The investigators disregarded the fact that the Hamas terrorist organization that governs the Gaza region -- and the buildings in question -- were the source of the endless rocket and mortar attacks on Israel's citizens that had sparked the military operation.
Israel: Mission was a 'Kangaroo Court'
Israel's Foreign Ministry, which had refused to cooperate with the investigation from the beginning, rejected the accusations.
"The mandate of the mission and the resolution establishing it prejudged the outcome of any investigation, gave legitimacy to the Hamas terrorist organization and ignored the deliberate Hamas strategy of using innocent Palestinian civilians as human shields for launching terrorist attacks against Israel," said the ministry in a statement.
However, it added, "Israel will read the report carefully." NGO Monitor President Gerald Steinberg had harsh words for both the probe and its conclusions, and told CNN in an interview that the mission had been tantamount to a "kangaroo court."
The Foreign Ministry also explained in its statement that Israel felt it could not participate in the investigation committee "because of the one-sided mandate given to Judge Goldstone, which ignored the thousands of missiles fired by Hamas against Israeli citizens, which made the operation in Gaza necessary."
The statement was distributed to the United Nations in Geneva by the Israeli mission to the U.N.