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Palestinian Leader Says Israeli Attacks on Gaza Were War Crimes

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told the European Parliament the Israeli attacks on Gaza were war crimes and that Israeli officials should be held accountable. Mr. Abbas spoke during a tour of Europe to drum up support for peace talks and reconstruction in Gaza.

Speaking to lawmakers in Strasbourg, France, Mr. Abbas reiterated his calls for a unity government with Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip. He also had harsh words for Israel.

Mr. Abbas said Israel committed war crimes during its offensive in Gaza, which ended last month. He said those who decided to launch the attacks should be held responsible.

His remarks came during a European tour aimed to secure backing for the Middle East peace process and help in reconstructing Gaza after the 23-day conflict. He met earlier in the week with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his foreign minister. The European Union is the largest contributor to the Palestinian territories.

European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pottering told reporters the European Union and its parliament wanted to be a fair partner when it came to the Middle East conflict.

"A fair partner for the people in Palestine and a fair partner for the people in Israel," he said. "We have to do our utmost now in the framework of the quartet, that means the United Nations, the European Union, Russia, the United States, together with the Arab countries and the Palestinian Authority and Israel ... to get a peace solution on the basis of two countries, a safe Israel and a safe Palestine within the borders of their states."

Human rights groups and medics say roughly 1,300 Palestinians were killed during Israeli offensive. Thirteen Israelis were also killed. Rights groups argue Israel and Hamas violated the laws of war, a claim rejected by both parties.

On Tuesday, the International Criminal Court in The Hague said the Palestinian Authority had recognized its jurisdiction, a step toward a possible war crimes investigation. But there remain many obstacles to such a probe, in part, because only states can recognize the court's authority, and the international community does not recognize the Palestinian territories as a state.