- Title: MIDDLE EAST: Hamas says killing Israeli civilians last year was a "mistake"
- Date: 29th January 2010
- Summary: ISRAEL-GAZA BORDER AREA, ISRAEL (FILE-JANUARY 6, 2009) (REUTERS) FIVE ISRAELI TANKS IN ROW, FIRING TOWARDS GAZA TWO TANKS FIRING TOWARDS GAZA
- Embargoed: 13th February 2010 12:00
- Topics: International Relations
- Reuters ID: LVAEYBEV6V8FGJ8HG6HBKPJNLXS9
- Story Text: The Islamist group Hamas, rejecting charges of war crimes in a U.N. report, on Thursday (January 28) said three Israeli civilians killed in rocket attacks by its members during Israel's Gaza offensive last year were hit by mistake.
Hamas said the explanation was part of its 52-page response to the U.N. report on last year's Gaza war -- by a panel led by jurist Richard Goldstone -- which accused the Islamist group in control of the Gaza Strip of targeting civilians.
"The results (of the investigations conducted by Hamas internal probe) have shown that any deliberation to kill Israeli civilians, what the resistance has done, was a warning. And so, for the three Israeli civilians who Israel alleges were killed, or how Goldstone report suggests, was a mistake. The targets were the Israeli military bases inside the Zionist borders," said Salah al-Bardaweel, a senior Hamas official.
This is the first time a leader of Hamas has described attacks in which Israeli civilians have died, as mistakes.
The group is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Israeli civilians in suicide bombings since the 1990s.
Hamas has also made no apology for firing thousands of inaccurate home-made rockets at southern Israeli towns over the past few years, most causing no damage but a few of them lethal.
Yigal Palmor of Israel's Foreign Ministry said the Hamas explanation was "an absurd attempt to delude world opinion".
"Hamas has been bombing civilians and busses and restaurants and in the streets for years and years. And taking credit of it. Hamas has been boasting openly the way they have taken their own people as human shields against the Israeli army. Is that not a war crime," he said.
New York-based Human Rights Watch, in a written statement, rejected the Islamists claim of unintentionally targeting civilians and even noted comments by Hamas leaders during the three-week conflict that said attacks against Israeli civilians were acceptable.
The Goldstone report criticises both sides in last year's December 27-January 18 conflict, which killed up to 1,387 Palestinians, including hundreds of civilians, and 13 Israelis, including the three civilians in question. But it was harsher towards Israel, which attacked the Gaza Strip in a declared aim to stem years of Palestinian rocket salvoes into its southern cities.
Israel boycotted the U.N. panel and also rejected allegations that it committed war crimes, saying its forces had tried to minimise civilian casualties in heavily populated areas in the Gaza Strip where militants operated.
International law expert Dr. Robbie Sabel said that if brought before the U.N. Security Council, the report would be vetoed by one or more members.
"My understanding is (that) more than one permanent member will object to the issue (referring to the Goldstone Report) being raised at the Security Council," he said.
"If anybody proposes the Security Council take action against Israel, that will be vetoed, not only by the United States, but by other permanent members," he added.
The Goldstone report gives Israel and Hamas six months to mount credible investigations or face possible war crimes prosecution in The Hague.
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