Israel’s military conduct during its winter offensive of Gaza has been brought into sharp focus again by the United Nations General Assembly, which has endorsed the Goldstone report that focuses mainly on alleged Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The bulk of the investigation that the United Nations had mandated is a detailed compilation of Israeli human rights violations during the 22-day conflict. However, a section of the 575-page report also finds Palestinian groups, including Hamas, guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

After two days of debate, 114 member-states voted in favour of a resolution endorsing the report’s findings and its recommendations for further action. Eighteen countries voted against the resolution and another 44 states abstained.

The report authored by South African jurist Richard Goldstone concluded that Israel had used disproportionate force, deliberately targeted civilians, used Palestinians as human shields and destroyed civilian infrastructure during its military offensive in Gaza.

The investigation recommended that unless the parties to the Gaza war investigated the allegations of war crimes on their own within six months, the cases should be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC), the permanent war crimes tribunal based in The Hague.

General Assembly President Ali Treki said the resolution had asked both the Israelis and Palestinians to carry out independent inquiries on their own. The resolution also asked U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to revert to the General Assembly within three months “with a view to considering further action, if necessary, by the relevant United Nations organs and bodies”, and to refer the findings to the Security Council.

Explaining the follow-up steps after the Assembly vote, Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour said: “In three months, we will reconvene at the General Assembly to consider the report of the Secretary-General for further action. The United Nations Security Council will also be in attendance.”

Coinciding with the Assembly debate, the Israeli human rights organisation Btselem said the investigations being carried out by the Israeli military regarding the Gaza war “only relate to isolated incidents in which a suspicion exists that soldiers breached military orders”. “To date, not one investigation has been opened regarding Israel’s policy during the operation, on matters such as the selection of targets, the open-fire orders given to soldiers, the legality of the weapons used, the balance between injury to civilians and military advantage, and so forth. Declarations recently made by Israeli officers indicate that there is no intention to investigate such matters.”

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