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18 September 2008
Israel and Palestine differ on Tutu's report on Beit Hanoun
Archbishop Desmond Tutu (photo) says he was appalled by the failure of the international community to bring to an end the suffering of the people of Gaza.
Presenting to the UN Human Rights Council a report of the Beit Hanoun fact finding mission, Archbishop Tutu said the silence of the international community to what was happening in Gaza offends and begets complicity.
Archbishop Tutu was tasked by the Human rights council to investigate the November 2006 bombing of Beit Hanoun by Israel in which 19 civilians were killed.
In his report Archbishop Tutu says Israeli authorities including the military were yet to provide a verifiable explanation, conduct an independent, impartial and transparent investigation or bring anyone into account. He says a secret military investigation into the incident was unacceptable from both legal and moral points of view.
"Faced with this absence of a well founded explanation from the Israeli Military - who is in sole possession of the relevant facts; the mission has to conclude that there is a possibility that the shelling of Beit Hanoun constituted a war crime. In our view, increasing the accountability of the Israeli military for its actions is the most effective means to protect Palestinian civilians against any further Israeli assaults."
Palestinian representative in Geneva Mohammed Abu Koash welcomed the report by Archbishop Tutu and called for the compensation of the victims of the Beit Hanoun bombing.
"The report should be widely circulated and brought to the attention of both the International Court of Justice and indeed the International Criminal Court. Moreover the victims and their survivors are entitled to reparations. "
Israeli ambassador Aharon Leshno Yaar said Israel remains committed to peace but take all necessary measures to protect its territory and citizens from unwarranted attacks.
"The report presented today will take its place in the vast library of UN reports on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The resolution that it will spawn will take its place on the lost-list of one sided resolutions that this council has passed against Israel so far. In my opinion, neither one will be later remembered for having significantly contributed to the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians."
Archbishop Tutu said accountability was a two way street and both sides of the Israeli Palestinian conflict have a legal duty to respect the provisions of international humanitarian law prohibiting the targeting of civilians.