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A top international jurist has retracted part of a controversial report on Israel's military operation into the Gaza Strip two years ago.
South African judge Richard Goldstone says he no longer believes Gazan civilians were deliberately targeted as a matter of Israeli policy during the war, which left up to 1,400 Palestinians dead.
From Jerusalem, Sheera Frenkel reports.
SHEERA FRENKEL: The news that Judge Goldstone had retracted some of his key claims sent the Israeli political establishment into overdrive this weekend, with some claiming it would be a turning point for Israel's international PR efforts.
Goldstone's report for the U.N. accused Israel of crimes against humanity. It stated that Israel's military deliberately targeted civilians during the 23-day offensive in Gaza.
But in a commentary published in The Washington Post this weekend, Goldstone retracted some of those claims. He wrote that had he known then what he knows now about the Gaza war, he would have published a different document.
Goldstone also said that Israel has probed itself to a significant degree over its Gaza operation. An internal Israeli military investigation into 400 separate incidents found that Israel's military had only acted with misconduct in nine cases. The leaders of Hamas, who rule Gaza, Goldstone wrote, had done nothing to investigate their own actions.
Israeli officials have already called on the U.N. to retract the entire Goldstone report from its records. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered what he calls a diplomatic offensive to vindicate Israel.
Prime Minister BENJAMIN NETANYAHU (Israel): (Foreign language spoken)
FRENKEL: That's Netanyahu speaking Sunday to his cabinet. He said the report will be tossed into the trash can of history.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman took credit for Goldstone's change of position, stating that his ministry sent him letters and documents that allowed Israel's position to sink in. But Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Goldstone's retraction was important but not sufficient.
Mr. EHUD BARAK (Defense Minister, Israel): (Foreign language spoken)
FRENKEL: Barak said Goldstone had to appear at the U.N. publicly and revoke the claims he made against Israel.
In the West Bank, Palestinian officials dismissed Goldstone's retraction.
Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said that Goldstone's comments do not change the fact that Israel had committed a massacre in Gaza. He suggested that Goldstone, who is Jewish, caved to pressure from Israel.
In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhari slammed Goldstone's accusation that Hamas had not investigated its own actions while Israel had. He said the U.N. General Assembly should meet to debate the original Goldstone report.
For NPR News, I'm Sheera Frenkel in Jerusalem.
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