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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The prospect Israeli officials could face war crimes trials abroad led the Israeli government on Tuesday to form a committee to deal with the international legal consequences of a U.N. report on the Gaza war.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who promised a lengthy battle to "delegitimise" the findings by a U.N. commission, also instructed government officials to draft proposals for changing international laws of war.
The U.N. Human Rights Council singled out Israel for censure in a resolution on Friday, while endorsing the report by South African jurist Richard Goldstone which condemned both Israeli and Hamas actions in the war last December and January.
The report recommended the war crimes issue be referred to the U.N. Security Council if the sides failed to conduct credible domestic investigations within six months, and possibly then to the International Criminal Court.
Netanyahu's office said in a statement his security cabinet instructed the Justice Ministry to form a committee to deal with the prospect of "legal proceedings abroad against the state of Israel or its citizens."
"We need to keep punching a hole in this lie that is spreading with the help of the Goldstone report," Netanyahu was quoted as saying in the statement.
The Israeli leader also instructed his government to draft an initiative to change the laws of war to take into account the need to contend with "the expansion of terrorism in the world."
An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the issue of establishing an official inquiry into the conduct of the military during the Gaza campaign was not raised at the meeting.
A Palestinian rights group said 1,417 Palestinians, including 926 civilians, were killed in the three-week offensive. Israel has said 709 Palestinian combatants were killed along with 295 civilians and 162 people whose status it was unable to clarify.
Ten Israeli soldiers and three civilians were killed during the campaign, which Israel launched with the declared aim of ending cross-border rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip.
(Writing by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Jon Hemming)