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Netanyahu: Israel Would Not Cooperate With Gaza War Crimes Tribunal

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel will never allow its soldiers and war-time leaders to go before an international war-crimes tribunal following the assault on militants in the Gaza Strip 10 months ago.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a fiery speech at the start of the Israeli parliament's winter session, condemning the recent report from a U.N. panel headed by former war crimes prosecutor Richard Goldstone.

The Goldstone report accuses Israeli forces of committing war crimes by using disproportionate force and targeting civilians during the 22-day assault on militants last December and January in the Gaza Strip.

Mr. Netanyahu described the document as a distorted report that undermines what he said is Israel's right to defend itself.

The Israeli leader said Israel will not accept a situation in which it would allow its wartime leaders and soldiers who defended Israeli cities and towns to go to the international court in the Hague. He said Israel will not accept having its soldiers treated as war criminals after defending Israeli lives in a dignified way against an enemy he described as inhuman.

The Goldstone report also accused the militant Hamas faction that rules Gaza of committing war crimes by firing rockets at Israeli communities for years.

Israel says more than 1,100 people were killed during the assault. Palestinian officials and international human-rights advocates put the figure at close to 1,400, with more than half of the dead being civilians.

Controversy over the report engulfed Palestinian leaders in the West Bank after they called for a delay of the U.N. vote on the document. President Mahmoud Abbas reversed that decision on Sunday, after facing demonstrations during the past week. Many Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza accused Mr. Abbas of caving in to Israeli pressure.

Israel says the report damages efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.