[JURIST] A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert [official website] Tuesday derided a report [text, PDF; JURIST report] to the UN Human Rights Council [official website] that accused Israel of human rights violations during its recent military operations in Gaza [JURIST report]. The report, authored by UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk [appointment release], criticized Israel for failing to take adequate precautions to distinguish between civilians and combatants in their offensives in the region, and called for an independent investigation to determine whether Israel committed war crimes. Olmert spokesman Mark Regev told AFP Tuesday that the report was one-sided and politically motivated [AFP report], adding that Israel denies committing any war crimes. Israeli Defense Force (IDF) [official website] Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi [official profile] maintained that Israeli soldiers acted morally [Ynet News report] throughout the conflict, noting that an internal investigation is underway. A US State Department (DOS) [official website] spokesman echoed Israel's view that the report was biased [DOS press briefing; AFP report], calling the rapporteur's views "anything but fair."
The IDF's conduct during the Gaza offensive has been heavily criticized by various rights groups. On Monday, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel accused [JURIST report] the IDF of violating its own code of ethics and general principles of human rights by impeding the treatment of those who needed medical care during the conflict. Last week, a group of 16 human rights investigators and judges sent an open letter [text; JURIST report] to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and the UN Security Council calling for an investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes. In January, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called for an independent investigation [statement text; JURIST report] of possible war crimes and human rights violations in Gaza. International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo is reportedly exploring whether the ICC has jurisdiction [JURIST report] to launch war crimes prosecutions in connection with the Gaza incidents. Israel has already begun to consider defenses against possible war crimes charges, partly based on claims [JURIST reports] that it used white phosphorus in a civilian area.