Israel: No apology for Gaza war

UNITED NATIONS: Israeli President Shimon Peres on Wednesday called a U.N. investigation accusing Israel of recklessness during the war in Gaza "outrageous" and said the Jewish state will not apologize for defending its citizens against Hamas missile attacks.

He conceded that the Israeli military made some mistakes _ as all armies do during war.

Nonetheless, Peres said he thinks chances for Mideast peace "were improved" following his meeting in Washington on Tuesday with President Barack Obama.

The U.N. inquiry focused on nine attacks on U.N. schools, a health clinic and the world body's Gaza headquarters and found that Israeli weapons were responsible for seven of them. It accused Israel of gross negligence and recklessness and said the U.N. should demand compensation for property damage and for those who were killed and injured, and an acknowledgment from Israel that statements it made about several attacks were untrue.

"We think it's outrageous. We shall never accept it. We don't think that we have to apologize because we have the right to defend the lives of our children and women," Peres told reporters after meeting U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to convey Israel's anger about the board of inquiry's findings.

"We don't accept one word of what the board writes," he said. "They were unfair. They were one-sided."

But Peres said Israel is considering compensation and the government has appointed a group to study how to handle it.

"I think the results will come very soon," he said.

Israel launched a 22-day ground and air offensive in Gaza on Dec. 27 in an effort to halt years of Hamas rocket fire and arms smuggling into the Palestinian territory, which is controlled by the Islamic militant group. The offensive caused an estimated $2 billion in damage and killed nearly 1,300 Palestinians, including hundreds of civilians, Palestinian officials have said. At least 13 Israelis died.

Peres claimed the U.N. inquiry went beyond its mandate of investigating the attacks on U.N. property and focused instead on "the whole situation in Gaza." Israel would not have participated if it had known the scope, he said.

"We're outraged because they didn't mention Hamas," he said. "If Hamas didn't shoot, there wouldn't be a single problem."

Israel's armed forces conducted their own investigation of the Gaza war and found no misconduct.

Peres said the country didn't overstep in its use of white phosphorous, an incendiary substance whose use was criticized by the inquiry. He added that Israel never targeted civilians and made 250,000 phone calls to warn people he said were being used as "human shields" to leave their houses before Israeli attacks.

Security Council diplomats said the U.N. report would be discussed by members during closed consultations on Thursday, when Libya was expected to circulate a draft resolution on its findings.

Peres' visit to the U.N. came ahead of Monday's ministerial meeting of the Security Council aimed at giving new impetus to the Middle East peace process.

Peres was upbeat about his meeting with Obama.

"I was very much encouraged by president Obama, by his attitude," he said. "I think the chances for peace were improved."