Human Rights Council AP May 21, 2010.
A session of the Human Rights Council at the UN European headquarters in Geneva. Photo by AP
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The United Nations Human Rights Council Wednesday endorsed a fiercely critical report on Israel's raid on a Gaza aid flotilla in May but stopped short of pressing for an international criminal inquiry.

It also renewed the mandate of separate investigation team that has been looking into whether Israelis and Palestinians have been properly investigating alleged rights abuses during the 3-week Gaza conflict in 2008-2009.

But there was no indication in two separate resolutions tabled at the 47-nation council by the Organization of Islamic States (OIC) that Israel's critics were aiming to have it taken soon before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

That possibility was raised Tuesday by a British judge on the council-appointed team that investigated the flotilla raid on May 31, in which nine pro-Palestinian activists, mainly Turks, were killed by Israeli commandos.

Palestinian rights campaigners in Geneva for the council session told reporters that they wanted Israel taken immediately to the ICC over the Gaza fighting in December 2009 and January 2009, in which more than 1,400 Palestinians died.

But diplomats said both resolutions appeared to take heed of public and private appeals from Western countries and the Palestinian Authority to avoid any action that would create new difficulties for the renewed Middle East peace process.

Discussion next year

However, the two texts, passed easily in the council where Islamic states and their allies who include Russia and China, have a majority, did call for new discussion on both issues at its session in March and April next year.

This left open the possibility that a firm move to have Israel put before the ICC, an action that would have to be endorsed in the U.N. Security Council, could be launched then if the already troubled peace talks lead nowhere.

The United States, the main promoter of the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, voted against the two texts from the 57-nation OIC, saying nothing should be done that would spoil the prospects for peace.

The flotilla raid report, presented to the council on Tuesday, said Israel had committed "grave violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law" in the incident, in international waters off Gaza.

Israel, which maintains a blockade against Islamist Hamas-controlled Gaza, says pro-Palestinian activists on one of the ships aiming to deliver humanitarian supplies to the enclave, died when they attacked its commandoes.

The raid resolution, presented by Pakistan for the OIC and effectively calling on Israel to try troops guilty of violence, was passed in the 47-nation council with 30 votes in favour, one -- the United States -- against, and 15 abstentions.

The seven European Union members on the body abstained, joining the United States in saying that the text failed to recognize that another flotilla inquiry set up by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon took primacy.