Barak: Goldstone Report 'False, Distorted, and Irresponsible'

Friday marks three-month limit set by General Assembly for internal report on Operation Cast Lead.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Friday lashed out against the Goldstone report, calling it "distorted, false, and irresponsible" as Israel submitted its response to the report to the United Nations.

Israel submitted its response at the end of a three-month deadline set by the United Nations General Assembly for issuing its own report on the Israel-Hamas fighting in Gaza Strip.

"This morning we handed the UN a report of the investigations and operations that took place during Operation Cast Lead," Barak, who was speaking at a Jewish National Fund tree-planting ceremony near the Negev town of Omer, said. "This report stresses that the IDF is like no other army, both from a moral standpoint as well as from a professional standpoint."

"All of the soldiers and officers whom we sent to battle need to know that the state of Israel stands behind them even on the day after," Barak said.

The UN General Assembly has already endorsed the controversial investigation led by South African Judge Richard Goldstone on the 22-day fighting between December 2008 and January 2009.

The Goldstone report, which was commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, charged both Israel and Hamas with war crimes and acts that amounted to crimes against humanity, saying that the conflict dominated by Israel's military superiority had killed 1,400 Palestinians and caused widespread damage to properties in Gaza.

The council had urged the General Assembly to debate the report and then refer the alleged crimes to the International Criminal Court at The Hague. That proposal has so far been ignored.

Instead, the General Assembly asked for its own report based on submissions from both sides - following another recommendation from the 547-page Goldstone report that both Israel and Hamas conduct their own investigations.

On Wednesday, Ban said he planned to produce the report.

But he added: "I have not seen anything yet, so I am not in a position to tell you what my report will be. I will have to report within three months, and the three months is now coming to an end."

Judge Goldstone's 547-page report was promptly and strongly denounced by Israel and the United States as biased against Israel. They said its findings were flawed.

But the Israeli government last year answered some of the specific charges in the report, and last week sent the UN a check for 10.5 million dollars to compensate for damage to UN properties in Gaza. The UN had demanded more than 11 million dollars.

Hamas militants in Gaza roundly supported the Goldstone report.