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U.N. presses for more investigations into Israel-Gaza war

  • Non-binding resolution calls for "credible and impartial" investigations
  • Results expected in five months
  • Israel, United States denounce resolution
  • Israel and Hamas fight in Gaza from December 27, 2008 to January 18, 2009
  • Gaza
  • Israel
  • Hamas

United Nations (CNN) -- The United Nations' General Assembly on Friday passed an Arab League-backed resolution calling on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to further investigate alleged war crimes during the Israel-Gaza war.

The non-binding resolution calls for "credible and impartial" investigations, with results expected in five months.

Though the resolution cited the Goldstone report, which alleged war crimes on both sides, Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian observer at the United Nations, cast it as part of a fight for "those criminals who committed war crimes against the Palestinian people from the Israeli side to be brought to justice."

"So the trend is obvious: The great majority of humanity is asking for the Goldstone report to be implemented," Mansour said.

The resolution is about "fighting against impunity and demanding accountability," he said.

Israel and the United States slammed the resolution.

"Israel is conducting and will continue to conduct investigations that are independent, credible and in conformity with international standards," said Ambassador Gabriela Shalev, Israel's U.N. representative.

She added: "Who exactly is the 'Palestinian side' that is responsible to undertake 'investigations that are independent, credible and conform to international standards?' Can the Palestinian Authority conduct an investigation in Gaza from which it was violently ousted in a bloody coup?

"Or, in contrast, do we really believe that the terrorist Hamas organization will investigate its use of human shields, its appalling methods of targeting civilians, and its cynical use of schools, hospitals, and mosques as weapons of terror?"

Alejandro Wolff, U.S. deputy representative to the United Nations, said the United States "remains deeply concerned about the pain and suffering endured by both Palestinians and Israelis" and "strongly supports accountability for any human rights and humanitarian law violations in relation to the Gaza conflict."

But he said the U.S. government believes the Goldstone report was "deeply flawed." He cited, among other things, "its unbalanced focus on Israel, the negative inferences it draws about Israel's intentions and actions, its failure to deal adequately with the asymmetrical nature of the Gaza conflict, and its failure to assign appropriate responsibility to Hamas for deliberately targeting civilians and basing itself and its operations in heavily civilian-populated urban areas."

Britain, which voted against previous, similar resolutions, voted in favor of the resolution on Friday.

"We have consistently called for full, credible and impartial investigations into the allegations in the Goldstone Report on the conduct of both parties during that conflict. That is what this resolution calls for and that is why we have voted for it," said Britain's U.N. representative, Mark Lyall Grant.

He said Britain's vote was a response to Palestinian efforts "to moderate the text" and take into account other concerns Britain and others had raised.

The overall vote was 98-7, with 31 abstentions. Some nations were not in attendance, which Palestinian officials said was likely due to the heavy snowstorm in New York.

The Goldstone report was based on a fact-finding mission led by former South African jurist Richard Goldstone, looking into the fighting between Israel and Hamas forces in Gaza between December 27, 2008, and January 18, 2009.

Israel launched the offensive against Gaza militants in response to ongoing firing of rockets against southern Israeli towns.

The U.N. Council for Human Rights approved the controversial report in October. The report accuses accuses Israel and Hamas of "actions amounting to war crimes, possibly crimes against humanity." It focuses more on alleged war crimes by Israel.

Israel last month provided the United Nations with a report justifying its actions. Israel said it faced "asymmetric conflicts" and blamed "militants operating from within and behind civilian areas" for placing civilians at risk.

CNN's Michaela Yisrael contributed to this report