Eleven Palestinian human rights organizations have called on the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas government in Gaza to endorse the Goldstone report by investigating Palestinian violations of international law allegedly committed during operation Cast Lead.

Acts listed by the report include Palestinian attacks on civilians in Israel and instances of internal repression, such as summary executions in the Gaza Strip and arrests and torture in the West Bank.

The calls were made in identical letters sent to Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh. The organizations asked the two leaders to launch investigations before the February 5 deadline by which the UN Secretary-General is to report to the General Assembly on compliance by Israel and the Palestinians with the assembly's earlier resolution.

On November 5 the assembly endorsed the conclusions of the report and urged both Palestinian and Israeli authorities to investigate suspected breaches of international law during last year's Gaza fighting.

Two of the 11 organizations that signed the letters, Adallah and the Arab Association for Human Rights, are based in Israel. The others operate in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and include groups such as the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Al-Haq, the Adameer prisoner's rights group and the Women's Center for Legal Aid and Counselling.

The letters state that "Whereas the bulk of the (Goldstone) report addressed violations by Israel, the occupying power, it also considered violations by Palestinian armed groups and the Palestinian authorities in Gaza and the West Bank".

The authors say that for PLO efforts to have the report endorsed by the UN to be of lasting value, the Palestinian authorities must take action to implement its recommendations.

"We urge you to immediately take clear and public steps toward holding to account all those who prove to be responsible for the violations detailed in the report," they wrote.

In order not to endorse the de-facto political separation of the West Bank and Gaza the groups sent the letters to Haniyeh and Abbas rather than to Haniyeh and his direct West Bank counterpart, prime minister Salam Fayyad.

Ex-justice Barak urges probe into Cast Lead report claims

Former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak has advised Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to support the setting up of a state investigative committee or a governmental inquiry committee to look into the claims raised against Israel by the Goldstone report.

Barak, whose opinion and international prestige carry considerable weight in the matter, told Mazuz recently that the report must be countered by such a committee, endowed with investigative and subpoena powers.

The chair of a state investigative committee is appointed by the president of the Supreme Court, while a governmental committee is appointed by the relevant minister. The latter body can be given investigative powers if it is chaired by a retired senior judge.

Barak appears to have rejected every other method for investigating the claims brought up by the report, into Israel's conduct during last year's Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip, but Defense Minister Ehud Barak has already said he opposed any outside investigations into the IDF.

The options open to Mazuz include the two types of committee suggested by Aharon Barak, some other investigatory panel without powers of subpoena, or not launching a new investigation at all, making do with internal reviews conducted by the IDF.

A source close to the deliberations told Haaretz that the Justice Ministry, the Foreign Ministry and the Military Prosecutor's office have all shown interest in drafting former Justice Barak to criticize the legal basis of the Goldstone report and to endorse the internal investigations of the IDF without a new inquiry.

Barak, however, is said to believe that nothing but a committee with investigative power would be an appropriate response to the claims of Israeli war crimes made in the report.

The source said either of the committees proposed by Barak would satisfy the Americans and would enable them to veto any proposal to have the events of the Gaza operation submitted for the consideration of the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

However, another option being considered is appointing a team of both local and foreign jurists specializing in constitutional issues and international humanitarian law.

The plan suggests that the experts would examine the internal reviews carried out by the IDF and would issue an opinion on their value. Effectively, this would be an advisory committee tasked with certifying the results of the IDF investigations, without being imbued with investigative powers of its own.