[JURIST] Israeli officials on Wednesday rejected a call by the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict [official website] to establish an independent inquiry into accusations of war crimes during December and January's Operation Cast Lead [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] in the Gaza Strip [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. The establishment of independent inquiry is one of the key suggestions from the UN report [text, PDF; JURIST report] issued Tuesday, which found that Israel impermissibly disregarded the welfare of civilians, failed to look into alleged misconduct by its soldiers, and used white phosphorous [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] in violation of international law during the conflict. In emphasizing Israel's stance on the commission's findings, President Shimon Peres harshly rebuked [statement] the conclusions of the report:
The Goldstone Commission report is a mockery of history. It fails to distinguish between the aggressor and a state exercising its right for self defense. War itself is a crime. The aggressor is the criminal. The side exercising self-defense has no other alternative.
The Israeli leadership is currently reaching out through diplomatic channels [Australian report] in order to lower the impact of the report. The UN commission also recommended [Times Online report] that Israel be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] if it does not conduct an independent investigation.
While much emphasis has been placed on the Israeli side of the conflict, the report also found that Palestinian fighters committed possible war crimes by firing mortars indiscriminately into civilian areas and mistreating prisoner of war Gilad Shalit [JURIST news archive] in violation of the Third Geneva Convention [text]. The mission began its field operations in Gaza in June, entering Gaza through Egypt's Rafah crossing after Israel announced that it would not cooperate with the investigation because it doubted the mission's objectivity, and concluded hearings [JURIST reports] in July. The probe followed a previous report [text, PDF; JURIST report], authored by UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk, which criticized Israel for failing to take adequate precautions to distinguish between civilians and combatants in their offensives in the region. Both Israel and the US criticized [DOS briefing] the report, calling the rapporteur's views "anything but fair." In April, an internal Israeli military investigation found that war crimes had not been committed [JURIST report] in the offensive despite individual reports by Israeli soldiers [Haaretz report]. Israel has already disputed [JURIST report] a previous report to the UNHRC that accused it of human rights violations.