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The UN today put off action on a report criticising Israel's actions during the war in Gaza after Palestinian leaders suddenly dropped their support for a resolution, apparently under heavy US pressure.
The decision marked a surprising reversal in the Palestinian position which, until now, had backed the findings of the report by the South African judge Richard Goldstone.
Goldstone accused both Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas of war crimes during the three-week conflict.
He was particularly critical of Israel, both for its conduct of the war and its continued occupation of Palestinian territory.
The UN human rights council in Geneva had been due to vote today on whether to pass the Goldstone report to the UN security council for further action.
That vote will now be delayed until the council meets next, in March next year.
Israel is threatening to kill off a crucial West Bank economic project unless the Palestinian Authority withdraws a request to the International Criminal Court to investigate alleged Israeli crimes during last winter’s Gaza war.
Shalom Kital, an aide to defence minister Ehud Barak, said today that Israel will not release a share of the radio spectrum that has long been sought by the Palestinian Authority to enable the launch of a second mobile telecommunications company unless the PA drops its efforts to put Israeli soldiers and officers in the dock over the Israeli operation.
Their key findings are including Both Israel and Palestinian related:
• Israel's incursion was "a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorise a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself and to force upon it an ever-increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability".
• Israeli forces committed "grave breaches of the fourth Geneva convention" which gave rise to "individual criminal responsibility", meaning soldiers could face prosecution.
• Israeli troops used Palestinian civilians as human shields, a war crime.
• Israel's economic blockade of Gaza in the years before the war amounted to "collective punishment intentionally inflicted by the government of Israel on the people of the Gaza Strip".
• Israeli actions depriving Gazans of means of subsistence, employment, housing and water, and denying their freedom of movement, "could lead a competent court to find that the crime of persecution, a crime against humanity, had been committed".
• Palestinian rocket attacks did not distinguish between civilian and military targets, caused terror among Israeli civilians and "would constitute war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity".
• Gaza's security forces, controlled by Hamas, carried out extrajudicial executions and the arbitrary arrest, detention and ill-treatment of people, especially political opponents.
• Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier held captive in Gaza for more than three years, is a prisoner of war and should be released on humanitarian grounds.