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UN Human Rights Council Endorses Report On Gaza Conflict

UNITED NATIONS -- Twenty-five members of the UN Human Rights Council have voted to endorse a report that accuses both Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes during the conflict earlier this year in Gaza.

The report criticizes Israel for failing to cooperate with the UN probe, which was led by South African war crimes prosecutor Richard Goldstone.

Six states, including the United States and some European Union members, voted against it and 16 abstained or did not vote on October 16.

Elliott Abrams, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, says that the resolution could make life difficult for some Israeli officials.

"Some countries, particularly in Europe, may use this as an excuse to prosecute or try to arrest Israeli officials. So one of the things that this means is that Israeli officials need to be more careful about travel," Abrams says.

"And that obviously has an impact on relations with any number of countries."

He says another consequence of the report is that Israel's already low level of trust in the United Nations is bound to drop even lower.

Lastly, the report is likely to slow up peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

Although Hamas was also found guilty of war crimes, Abrams says Hamas leadership will be pleased that the report lends it credibility.

"They are treated almost as an equal to Israel," Abrams says, which is a member of the United Nations. "So when you have a report that talks equally about Israel and Hamas, they seem to find it a kind of acknowledgement of their own credibility."

Security Council Next?

Now that the Human Rights Council has endorsed the report, will the UN Security Council be next?

Abrams says it's unlikely. The United States, a permanent Security Council member, is a firm friend of Israel and would probably veto any resolution against it. The United Kingdom and France would also likely support the U.S. position.

But it's not clear how China and Russia might react, Abrams says, "because both the Russian and Chinese governments are guilty of human rights abuses. And it may be that they don't like the idea that this subject and the Human Rights Council report will come to the Security Council."

Mohamad Bazzi, a journalism professor at New York University and a Middle East expert, says Hamas is trying to focus world attention on the abuses committed by Israel in Gaza.

Bazzi says that it's "interesting that the Israelis have not highlighted the criticism of Hamas in the report as much as the other side has."

Israel has dismissed the report as anti-Israeli propaganda.

The report calls for the UN Security Council to refer the issue to the International Criminal Court if the Israelis and the Palestinians fail to investigate the alleged abuses themselves.