Wide condemnation over UN Gaza report delay

Middle East Online, Oct 5, 2009

Haniya: the decision ‘trades in the blood of the children of Gaza’

Hamas, 16 Palestinian human rights groups, others slam postponing action on Goldstone’s report.

GAZA CITY – The prime minister of the democratically elected Hamas government in Gaza on Sunday slammed as “reckless and irresponsible” the decision by the UN Human Rights Council to postpone consideration of a damning report into the Gaza war.

Ismail Haniya blamed the Palestinian Authority for the decision to delay a vote on the report by the former international war crimes prosecutor Richard Goldstone.

The report accused both Israel and Palestinian resistance of committing war crimes during the three-week conflict at the turn of the year.

The report reserved its harshest criticism for Israel.

Goldstone had recommended sending the report to the UN Security Council and to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague, if Israel and Palestinians fail to conduct independent investigations as called for by the report.

“The decision taken by Ramallah to withdraw the Goldstone report was reckless and irresponsible,” Haniya said, referring to the West Bank government of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas (Abu Mazen).

He added that the decision “trades in the blood of the children of Gaza.”

Hamas has led a chorus of criticism of the decision taken on Friday in the UN Human Rights Council.

On Saturday, 16 Palestinian human rights groups slammed the delay, saying in a joint statement that it “denies the Palestinian people’s right to an effective judicial remedy and the equal protection of the law.”

“It represents the triumph of politics over human rights. It is an insult to all victims and a rejection of their rights,” the groups said.

The decision was widely seen as the result of intense pressure from Washington which, along with Israel, had criticised the report.

“Abu Mazen (Abbas) was himself responsible for this decision,” a senior member of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) said.

“He was under pressure from many states, especially the United States and Britain,” the official added on condition of anonymity.

The decision drew criticism from within the ranks of Abbas’s Fatah party.

Also on Saturday, the Palestinian economy minister Bassem Khuri, an independent, resigned in protest of the decision taken on the report, according to a senior official.

Israel had threatened not take steps towards peace if Goldstone Gaza report passes to UN Security Council.

“The adoption of what is called the Goldstone report would deal a fatal blow to the peace process,” hardline Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

“Israel will not be able to take further steps and further risks towards peace if the report is adopted,” Netanyahu said.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon warned that the Palestinian Authority’s support for the report could hamper future negotiations on the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

“They were the ones that instigated the report and that are calling for measures. We would expect them to cease this altogether, not just because there is no basis for it but also because this is the most unfriendly act if we want to deal together on the most difficult issues,” Ayalon told reporters.

“Any action taken on this report would have a detrimental effect on the peace process, if not deal it a fatal blow… The Palestinians cannot try to talk peace and attack us at the same time,” he said.

Some 1,400 Palestinians — mainly civilians, including hundreds of children — were killed by Israel during the war, which came to an end on January 18 when both sides declared unilateral ceasefires.

The United States, which recently joined the 47-member Council after remaining on the sidelines for years, had opposed endorsement of the report.

In its decision on Friday, which was endorsed by several Arab and Muslim states which had previously expressed support for the report, the 49-member UN council postponed the vote to March next year.

A Syrian foreign ministry official expressed “surprise” at the PA decision, and accused it of obstructing “Arab, Muslim and international efforts that rallied to take the necessary steps to implement the report’s recommendations.”

In Cairo, Arab League chief Amr Mussa told reporters he was “disturbed” by the delay, and added in veiled criticism of the PA that “there was no consultation” with the league before it agreed to support the delay.

An Arab League diplomat said the Palestinian Authority of making “concessions for free to Israel without getting anything in return.”

In Lebanon, Hezbollah said in a statement that the vote delay was “a response to an American demand, with the complicity of some Arabs.”

Abbas reacted to the criticism by forming a committee to investigate the circumstances that led to the delay, the official Palestinian news agency Wafa quoted a senior Palestinian official as saying.

Israel frees Hamas MP after more than three years

Israel on Sunday released a Hamas MP who had been held in prison for more than three years, Palestinian and Israeli officials said.

MP Raed al-Amla returned to his home village of Qabalan south of the West Bank city of Nablus after ending a 41-month sentence in Israel prison, said Yaron Zamir, a prison service spokesman.

Amla was one of dozens of Hamas lawmakers arrested by Israel across the West Bank after Hamas and other Gaza resistance seized Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in a cross-border raid in June 2006. Shalit remains in captivity to this day.

According to Palestinian officials, 25 MPs are still held in Israeli prisons, including 22 from the democratically elected Hamas movement, two from the Fatah movement as well as the leader of the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Palestinian teen wounded by Israeli fire in Gaza

A Palestinian teenager was critically wounded on Sunday by Israeli fire in the north of the Gaza Strip, medics said.

Ashraf Abu Suleiman, 16, was wounded by live gunfire near the border fence close to the town of Beit Lahiya, they said, without providing further details on what he was doing there.

The Israeli army had no immediate comment.

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