Fearing war crimes arrests, Israeli officers delay UK trip

Israel has delayed a visit by senior military officers to Britain amid fears the group could be arrested there on war crimes charges, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said on Tuesday.

"These officers were invited by Great Britain, but they will stay in Israel as long as we do not have a 100 per cent guarantee that they will not become objects of criminal lawsuits in that country," Ayalon told public radio.

In December, Tzipi Livni, the leader of Israel's main opposition party Kadima and foreign minister during the Gaza war a year ago, cancelled a visit to Britain after an arrest warrant was issued against her by a British court, sparking a diplomatic row.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has insisted that Livni is welcome and has voiced his determination to change the law that allows British courts to issue warrants for alleged war crimes suspects around the world.

The Hamas rulers of Gaza have said they were providing information to European lawyers investigating alleged war crimes by Israel during the Gaza war.

A UN fact-finding mission to Gaza last year said both Israel and Palestinian militant groups were guilty of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during the 22-day war that ended on January 18, 2009 with mutual ceasefires.

The war, which Israel launched in late December 2008 in response to rocket fire from the Hamas-run territory, killed some 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.

 

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