The United Nations Human Rights Council on Friday endorsed a report that accused both Israel
and the Palestinian militant group Hamas
of committing war crimes in Gaza in their December-January conflict.
The Council voted to refer the report to the Security Council, possibly setting up international prosecution of Israelis and Palestinians accused of war crimes.
In a special session, 25 of the body's members voted in favor of the resolution that chastised Israel for failing to cooperate with the UN mission led by South African jurist Richard Goldstone.
Mostly developing countries were in favor and the United States and five European countries opposing. Eleven mostly European and African countries abstained, while Britain, France and three other members of the 47-nation body declined to vote.
Both Israel and Hamas have rejected the charges in the Goldstone Report, which is most critical of the Jewish state. The report calls for the UN Security Council to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court if the Israelis or Palestinians fail to investigate the alleged abuses themselves.
But the resolution agreed in Geneva simply calls for the UN General Assembly to consider the Goldstone Report and for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to report back to the Human Rights Council on Israel's adherence to it.
Such moves would at a minimum keep up pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
who Washington is trying to convince to commit to a "two-state solution" that previous Israeli governments have signed up to.
The breakdown of the Human Rights Council vote was not immediately released, but the United States had said it would vote against the resolution that was drafted by the Palestinians with the support of Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan and Tunisia on behalf of non-aligned, African, Islamic and Arab nations.
A spokesman for British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Friday that Netanyahu had urged Brown to have Britain vote against the resolution, not abstain as it was expected to do.
Israel's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Aharon Leshno Yaar, said just before the vote that the resolution was starkly imbalanced and failed to encourage the negotiation of peace in the Middle East.
The US charge d'affaires in Geneva, Douglas Griffiths, said that Washington would vote against the recommendation because it failed to consider wrongdoings by Hamas and slammed Israel with "sweeping conclusions of law."
Taher al-Nono, spokesman of the Hamas government in Gaza, said Hamas would investigate the recommendations of the report but said nothing about the report's charges against Hamas.
"The Palestinian government welcomes the endorsement on the Goldstone report and thanks the friendly countries which voted in favor of the report," he said. "We hope that the vote may be the beginning of the prosecution of the leaders of the occupation."
The Human Rights Council had agreed during its last regular session to postpone discussion on the Gaza report under pressure from Washington aimed at getting the Middle East peace process back on track.
But Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
came under sharp criticism for agreeing to the delay, leading to the request for a special session on the topic.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report