Gaza ruler Hamas, rejecting charges of war crimes in a U.N. report, said on Thursday three Israeli civilians killed in rocket attacks by its members during Israel's Gaza offensive last year were hit by mistake.
"The killing of three Israeli civilians as alleged by Israel and as mentioned in the Goldstone report was by mistake and the target was military installations inside the Zionist cities," said Salah al-Bardaweel, a senior Hamas official.
Hamas said the explanation was part of its 52-page response to a U.N. report on last year's Gaza war by a panel led by jurist Richard Goldstone, which accused it of targetting civilians.
"Resistance fighters were warned against hitting civilians."
This is the first time a leader of Hamas has described attacks in which Israeli civilians have died as mistakes.
An official who declined to be named defended past suicide attacks as a justifiable "response to the killing of Palestinian civilians throughout years of Israeli occupation".
The Goldstone report criticizes hasrhly Israel in last year's Dec. 27-Jan. 18 conflict, which killed up to 1,434 Palestinians, a third of them were children. 13 Israelis, including the three civilians in question died in the Israeli war in Gaza.
The U.N. report accused Israel of deliberately targeting Palestinian civilians and intentionally destroying infrastructure, homes and livelihoods
Israel boycotted the U.N. panel and also rejected allegations that it committed war crimes, also saying its forces had tried to "minimise" civilian casualties, in heavily populated areas in the Gaza Strip.
By rejecting calls for an independent inquiry, Israel could open itself to "international" war crimes proceedings.
Israel refused to cooperate with the Goldstone probe, despite Goldstone's Jewish faith and his close ties Israel.
The Goldstone report gives Israel and Palestinian Hamas six months to mount credible investigations or face possible war crimes prosecution in The Hague.
Cabinet minister Yuli Edelstein said on Sunday Israel would make do with internal army investigations of last year's war that resulted in a handful of courts-martial over minor offences, but would deliver a "formal response" to the Goldstone report.
ReutersLast Mod: 29 Ocak 2010, 04:32