The United Nations Human Rights Council said Monday that it would continue to treat the report written by former Judge Richard Goldstone about Israel's incursion into Gaza as legitimate, despite his recently voiced regret regarding some of his damning allegations.

A spokesman for the UN rights council said for the report to be withdrawn Goldstone would have to submit a formal request to the Geneva-based body, which he has not done.

"UN reports are not canceled on the basis of an op-ed in a newspaper," spokesman Cedric Sapey told The Associated Press.

"Various resolutions passed by the Geneva-based council and the UN General Assembly in New York would also have to be repealed by those bodies," he said.

Writing in a Washington Post column published on Friday, Goldstone wrote "we know a lot more today about what happened in the Gaza war of 2008-09 than we did when I chaired the fact-finding mission appointed by the UN Human Rights Council that produced what has come to be known as the Goldstone Report." He added that "If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document."

The UN rights council commissioned the investigation of the Gaza war shortly after the incursion which left over 1,400 Palestinian militants and civilians dead. Israel has blamed Hamas for the heavy civilian toll, saying the militant group staged attacks from heavily populated residential areas, as well as mosques and schools.

The Goldstone report, released in September 2009, concluded that both Israel and Hamas committed potential war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.

The findings triggered outrage in Israel and a personal campaign against Goldstone - a respected South African Jewish jurist with close ties to Israel.

Following Goldstone's Friday op-ed, Israel has called for the report to be withdrawn.
 

"Everything that we said proved to be true," said Netanyahu. "Israel did not intentionally target civilians and it has proper investigatory bodies. In contrast, Hamas intentionally directed strikes toward innocent civilians and did not conduct any kind of probe."

Goldstone's decision to reconsider the conclusions of the report came as a surprise to at least one other member of the four-person panel that authored the document.

"I probably didn't expect to see the comments he made, to be honest," Desmond Travers told the AP in a telephone interview, adding he had not been consulted beforehand.

Travers, a former officer in the Irish Armed Forces and an expert on international criminal investigations, said he hadn't seen the Israeli investigative reports that prompted Goldstone to backtrack on parts of his conclusion, though he acknowledged it might be valid to do so.

"But the tenor of the report in its entirety, in my opinion, stands," Travers said.

Human rights groups said regardless of the intention, Israeli officers should still be held responsible for indiscriminately targeting areas where civilians were present.