UNITED NATIONS - Desmond Tutu, the South African Nobel laureate, has said there was a "possibility" Israel had committed a war crime when its artillery shells killed 18 Palestinians from a single family in Gaza two years ago. Tutu said the Israeli artillery shelling which hit the Athamna family house showed "a disproportionate and reckless disregard for Palestinian civilian life". The archbishop made his comments in a final report to the Geneva-based UN human rights council, which had sent him to Gaza to investigate the killings in Beit Hanoun in November 2006. Israel did not grant the archbishop or his team a visa for 18 months, so they only entered Gaza in May this year on a rare crossing from Egypt. On the three-day visit, Tutu and his team visited the house, interviewed the survivors and met others in Gaza, including the senior Hamas figure and former prime minister Ismail Haniyeh. At the time Tutu said he wanted to travel to Israel to hear the Israeli account of events, but he was not permitted. "In the absence of a well-founded explanation from the Israeli military - who is in sole possession of the relevant facts - the mission must conclude that there is a possibility that the shelling of Beit Hanoun constituted a war crime," Tutu said in his report to the 47-member council. He also recommended that Israel pay adequate compensation to the victims "without delay". His report said "reparation" should also be made to the town of Beit Hanoun itself, and suggested a memorial to the victims that also helped the survivors, and suggested a physiotheraphy clinic as one possibility. Tutu also said that rockets fired by Palestinian militants into southern Israel should stop and should be investigated. "Those firing rockets on Israeli civilians are no less accountable that the Israeli military for their actions," he said. For the past three months a ceasefire between Israel and the militant groups in Gaza has been in place and has significantly reduced the number of incidents and the death toll from the conflict there. Israel still maintains a tough economic blockade on the territory, restricting imports and banning nearly all exports. "It is not too late for an independent, impartial and transparent investigation of the shelling to be held," Tutu said. He said those responsible for firing the shells should be held accountable, whether the cause of the incident was a mistake or wilful. After the incident, Israel's military said the shelling into Beit Hanoun that day was mistaken and was the result of a "rare and severe failure in the artillery fire control system" which created "incorrect range-findings". It said the shells had been aimed 450 metres away from the edge of town. No legal action was taken against any officer. However, it is still unclear why the artillery was fired so close to a residential area that morning and why shells continued to be fired after the first one hit the Athamna house - at least six shells, possibly more, were fired within a few minutes. The survivors in the family remain bitter and most of the large extended family no longer live in the building. Since the shelling they have received no financial help, apart from a monthly stipend from the Palestinian Authority of 50 for each of the 18 dead. Aharon Leshno-Yaar, Israel's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, where the human rights council was meeting, rejected Tutu's report as "another regrettable produce of the human rights council," according to media reports. Tutu also called on Israel to stop restricting the movement of medical goods and of people in and out of Gaza, which he said was preventing Gazans from getting access to medical services.