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Palestinian Authority president reverses position on UN rights council Gaza delay

[JURIST] Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas [BBC profile] proposed Monday that the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] reconvene to vote to endorse the findings of a report [text, PDF; JURIST report] by the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict [official website], which criticized Israel's role in last winter's Operation Cast Lead [Global Security backgrounder]. Abbas's statement comes less than two weeks after the UNHRC decided to postpone the vote until March 2010, due, in part, to the PA's endorsement of such a postponement. Abbas, facing criticism [JURIST report] from fellow Palestinians and human rights organizations, also announced Sunday the formation of a panel [Haaretz report] to investigate who authorized the PA to endorse delaying the vote. US and Israeli officials have said that a vote to endorse the report, which recommends sending the report to the UN General Assembly and could eventually lead to prosecution of Israeli officials before the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] for war crimes and crimes against humanity, would complicate peace talks between Israel and Palestinian leaders. The PA's decision not to pursue an immediate vote, however, has delayed [Al Jazeera report] the signing of a reconciliation agreement between Abbas's Fatah party and Hamas, one of Abbas's harshest critics for the PA's decision to delay the vote. Abbas suggested he would like a hearing before the UNHRC by as early as next week

On Monday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Joe Stork urged [JURIST comment] US President Barack Obama to endorse the report. Last week, B'Tselem [advocacy website] Executive Director Jessica Montell argued [JURIST comment] that Israel should take advantage of the postponed vote to conduct its own investigation into its conduct during the conflict. Last month, an Israeli newspaper reported that Israel conditioned [JURIST report] a proposed mobile phone network in the West Bank on the PA dropping its request that the ICC investigate Israel for war crimes during Operation Cast Lead. The UN commission began its field operations in Gaza in June, entering Gaza through Egypt's Rafah crossing after Israel announced that it would not cooperate with the investigation because it doubted the mission's objectivity, and concluded hearings [JURIST reports] in July. In April, an internal Israeli military investigation found that war crimes had not been committed [JURIST report] in the offensive despite individual reports by Israeli soldiers [Haaretz report].

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