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Israel welcomes resignation of war crimes' inquiry head

Jerusalem, Feb 3
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday welcomed the resignation of the head of a UN inquiry into the alleged war crimes committed during last summer's conflict between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza.

Netanyahu said that William Schabas "was biased against Israel" and that the inquiry's as yet unpublished report was written at the behest of the UN Human Rights Council, which the prime minister described as "an anti-Israel body", CNN reported.

He said the report, due to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in March, should be shelved. "This is the same council that in 2014 made more decisions against Israel than against Iran, Syria and North Korea combined," he added.

Netanyahu said Israel acted in accordance with international law during Operation Protective Edge and that it was "Hamas, the other terrorist organisations and regimes around us that need to be investigated, not Israel".

On 8 July 2014, Israel launched a military operation, which it designated Operation Protective Edge in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman also accused Schabas of bias - saying his nomination was "like appointing Cain to investigate who murdered Abel" - and welcomed his resignation, describing it as "another achievement of Israeli diplomacy".

Schabas, a Canadian-born professor of international law based in London, was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to head the three-person inquiry commission in August.

The UN has said more than 2,100 Palestinians were killed in the conflict in Gaza. According to UN estimates, at least 70 per cent of the Palestinians killed were civilians, but Israel reports a higher number of militants among the dead.

On the Israeli side, there were 68 casualties, 65 of them soldiers and three civilians.