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Originally published Tuesday, April 5, 2011 at 12:16 AM

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Official: Goldstone invited to visit Israel

South African jurist Richard Goldstone has accepted an invitation to visit Israel and promised to work to nullify his U.N. report accusing Israel of deliberately targeted civilians during its offensive in the Gaza Strip two years ago, Israel's interior minister said Tuesday.

Associated Press

JERUSALEM —

South African jurist Richard Goldstone has accepted an invitation to visit Israel and promised to work to nullify his U.N. report accusing Israel of deliberately targeted civilians during its offensive in the Gaza Strip two years ago, Israel's interior minister said Tuesday.

The Israeli overture follows Goldstone's recent comments in a newspaper article that he no longer believes that Israel intentionally fired at civilians. Israel had blacklisted the internationally respected jurist, who is Jewish and has strong connections to the country, since his report was issued in 2009.

The report was commissioned by the U.N. Human Rights Commission, which ordered the investigation into the actions of both Israel and the Hamas militant group during their three-week in 208-2009. The commission has said it stands by the report, and Goldstone would need to submit a formal request to change it.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai told Israel's Army Radio station that he phoned Goldstone on Monday to express his appreciation for Goldstone's "courageous" reconsideration of his charges, and to invite him to tour Israel's southern communities that have sustained years of Palestinian rocket fire.

Yishai said Goldstone "as a Jew understands well the story of the Jewish people's suffering ... and it is very important for him to come and see this."

Goldstone turned down an interview request from The Associated Press.

The Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot said Goldstone told the paper Monday he would visit Israel in early July as a guest of the interior minister.

The minister added that Goldstone promised him he would take additional steps to retract his U.N. report.

Also speaking on Army Radio, Danny Gillerman, a former Israeli ambassador to the U.N. who also participated in the phone call with Yishai, quoted Goldstone as saying he was ready to take steps to change the status of the report, but first wanted to "wait for the dust to settle" following his opinion piece in Friday's Washington Post.

The Goldstone report concluded that both Israel and Hamas committed potential war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during three weeks of fighting. The findings triggered outrage in Israel and a personal campaign against Goldstone.

In Friday's article, Goldstone said new information had come to light that made him rethink his central conclusions.

He lauded Israel for conducting dozens of investigations into alleged wrongdoing. In particular, he cited evidence that a deadly strike that killed more than 20 members of a Palestinian family resulted from faulty intelligence and was not an intentional attack.

Israel says civilian casualties in Gaza were the fault of the area's Hamas rulers, claiming the militant group used residential areas for cover during the fighting. Israeli leaders have called for the report to be retracted.

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