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Abbas opposed Israeli war crimes report in private, according to leaks

Leaks of Mossad documents would appear to show attempts to put pressure on South African government over war crimes report
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas gestures during a joint press conference (AFP)

Leaked Israeli secret service documents would appear to show that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas supported the suppression of the Goldstone report into Israeli war crimes, but could not take such a position “in public.”

Documents obtained from South Africa's intelligence service, the State Security Agency (SSA) by Al-Jazeera and the Guardian also appear to show the Israeli secret service, Mossad, pressuring the government of South Africa into opposing the Goldstone report in the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

The report, produced by South African lawyer Richard Goldstone, stated that Israel had been involved in potential war crimes during the 2009 Operation Defensive Shield bombardment of Gaza, and had targetted civilians, used human shields and destroyed civilian infrastructure.

It also condemned Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups for deliberately targetting Israeli civilians and firing indiscriminate rocket attacks.

The leaked document stated that Abba was “having reservations about the success for the Palestinian people, if the report is accepted by the international community” and was concerned it would “play into the hands of Hamas and weaken his position.”

It noted that he could “not take this stance in public” and would “have to agree with the report in public.”

The leak will likely further raised suspicions among Palestinians about the the sincerity of Abbas in attempting to bring Israel before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Though Abbas signed the Rome Statute in December allowing the PA to join the ICC, it came after reports that he had undermined such a move on previous occasions.

Mossad warned South African intelligence that backing the Goldstone report could “give the impression to other terror organisations that highly populated areas could be used as human shields during terror operations.”

“By this a new form of terrorism and warfare could be implemented and could be seen as a victory for terrorism,” it read.

Israel has long regarded the UNHRC with suspicion and views it as having an anti-Israel bias. Though Goldestone was himself accused of anti-Israel bias by some commentators he also stated that the UNHRC's “history of bias against Israel cannot be doubted.”

In spite of the apparent pressure, South Africa backed the report at the UNHRC along with 24 other countries. The US was among those who opposed it.

More than 1,400 Palestinians were killed in the 2009 war, as well as 4 Israelis.