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Haniyeh responds to Amnesty report on Gaza assault

July 3, 2009 9:37 P.M. (Updated: July 3, 2009 9:37 P.M.)
Gaza - Ma'an - De facto Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on Friday commented on Amnesty International's report this week that both Israel and Hamas committed war crimes during the Gaza assault last winter.

At his weekly address at a local Gaza City mosque, Haniyeh said "there are important and positive issues" in the Amnesty report, which he commended for it's honesty.

"It includes eight crimes committed by the [Israeli] occupation forces during the latest war on Gaza, in which internationally banned weapons were used," he noted, adding that the document "cleared the Palestinians and resistance of using residents as human shields."

The report said it found no evidence that Hamas used human shields, but that Israel routinely kept people inside occupied homes for added protection, an act it called a war crime. Israel continues to maintain that Hamas too used human shields during the conflict.

However, Haniyeh criticized the report for "describing equally the victim and the perpetrator," and urged the international organization to "have more balance" and step back from its "double-standard policy."

In regard to a UN fact-finding mission led by South African Judge Richard Goldstone, Haniyeh said that "the committee was touched [by what it saw] and reached the truth," noting that "we await a UN report that will be fair to the Palestinians."

The leader also expressed his gratitude to peace activists on the Spirit of Humanity aid ship that was seized by Israeli navy boats en route to Gaza on Tuesday, calling Israel's actions "acts of piracy."

With regard to ongoing unity talks in Cairo, the leader alleged that intervention was hindering their success, saying, "Outside intervention in the Palestinian national dialogue is the main obstacle to reaching a Palestinian national agreement" with the Hamas movement's Fatah rivals.

The leader also insisted on balance in the talks with Fatah, which maintains that Hamas' takeover in 2007 was an illegal revolt that ought to be dealt with first and foremost within the unity talks taking place this week in Egypt.

"Dealing with the current crisis as if it were some kind of coup is a misunderstanding," Haniyeh said. "To anyone who says he is not satisfied with the situation in Gaza, we say we are not satisfied with what is happening in the West Bank," adding that "we should get past the confusion occurring within the dialogue."

Haniyeh also urged negotiators to deal with disputed issues separately, and not to link certain files together. Instead, he called for immediately dealing with the most pressing issues of the siege and the Strip's reconstruction: "Do not link construction [to the deal], with the serious effects it has on the people, or by linking opening the crossings [into Gaza] with conciliation," he added.

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