Israel rejects Amnesty Int’l report of Gaza operation that claims war crimes

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel has rejected as biased and inaccurate an Amnesty International report that accuses Israel of committing war crimes during the summer’s Gaza operation.

The report issued early Wednesday details eight instances where residences in Gaza were attacked without warning, leading to the deaths of some 104 civilians.

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“Israeli forces have brazenly flouted the laws of war by carrying out a series of attacks on civilian homes, displaying callous indifference to the carnage caused,” said Philip Luther, director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International. “The report exposes a pattern of attacks on civilian homes by Israeli forces which have shown a shocking disregard for the lives of Palestinian civilians, who were given no warning and had no chance to flee.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the report accuses Israel of wrongdoing while producing no evidence. The ministry said the report also ignores documented war crimes by the terror group Hamas, which runs Gaza, including the use of human shields, and storing ammunition and firing at Israeli civilian population centers from within schools, hospitals, mosques and civilian neighborhoods in Gaza.

Also, the ministry said, the report fails to mention the terror tunnels built between Israel and Gaza.

In Israel, investigations are underway by several bodies, inside and outside the military, into over 90 incidents, including two criminal investigations. Amnesty International dismissed the measures as insufficient, according to the ministry.

In several of the cases documented in the report, possible military targets were identified by Amnesty International.

“However,” the group said, “the devastation to civilian lives and property caused in all cases was clearly disproportionate to the military advantages gained by launching the attacks.”

At least 18,000 homes in Gaza were destroyed or made uninhabitable during the operation. Some 2,200 Palestinians, more than half reportedly civilians, were killed. Sixty-six Israeli soldiers and six civilians were killed during the operation. More than 4,500 rockets were fired from Gaza at southern Israel.

Amnesty International called on the United Nations Security Council to refer the incidents to the International Criminal Court for investigation.

The group said it conducted its research for the report “remotely” and that the report was prepared by what Amnesty International said are “two fieldworkers based in Gaza.”

NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research institute that monitors nongovernmental organizations, said in a statement that the report lacks professional investigatory methodology and that Amnesty International holds a “documented bias against Israel.

“Amnesty’s claims had no validity when they were first made, without evidence, during the fighting, and they have no more credibility now, despite the facade of ‘research’ and ‘investigations,’ ” said Gerald Steinberg, the president of NGO Monitor.