Amnesty accuses Israel of Gaza war crimes

Israeli forces killed hundreds of Palestinian civilians and destroyed thousands of Gaza Strip homes in attacks that amounted to war crimes, Amnesty International charged today, in the first in-depth human rights group report on the recent war in Gaza.



Amnesty called on Israel to publicly pledge not to use artillery, white phosphorus and other imprecise weapons in densely populated areas. And it urged Gaza's militant Hamas rulers to stop rocket fire against Israeli civilians — attacks it also described as war crimes.

Amnesty — which first accused Israel of war crimes shortly after the fighting ended on Jan. 18 — said "disturbing questions" remain about why high-precision weapons like tank shells and air-delivered bombs and missiles "killed so many children and other civilians."

The group deplored Israel's use of less-precise artillery shells and highly incendiary white phosphorous in built-up areas. It also accused Israeli forces of using Palestinians as "human shields" and frequently blocking civilians from receiving medical care and humanitarian aid.

The pattern of Israeli attacks and the high number of civilian casualties "showed elements of reckless conduct, disregard for civilian lives and property and a consistent failure to distinguish between military targets and civilians and civilian objects," Amnesty International charged.

More than 1,400 Palestinians, including more than 900 civilians, were killed during the three-week offensive, according to Gaza health officials and human rights groups. Israel, which launched the war to halt years of rocket and mortar attacks on its southern communities, puts the death toll closer to 1,100. It says the vast majority of the dead were militants, though it has refused requests to provide a list of the dead.

Amnesty says some 300 children and hundreds of other unarmed civilians were among the dead. Thirteen Israelis also were killed, including three civilians who died by rocket fire.

The Israeli military rejected the report's findings, saying it did not properly recognize "the unbearable reality of nine years of incessant and indiscriminate rocket fire on the citizens of Israel."

The report, the military added, ignored the military's efforts to minimize civilian casualties in a battlefield where Hamas used residential areas, medical facilities, schools and mosques as cover to stage attacks.

"It presents a distorted view of the laws of war that does not comply with the rules implemented by democratic states battling terror," the military said in a statement.

Israel did not respond to Amnesty International's repeated requests for information on specific cases detailed in the report and for meetings to discuss the organization's findings, said Donatella Rovera, who headed Amnesty's field research mission.

The 117-page Amnesty report also denounced Hamas for firing rockets into Israel.

"Such unlawful attacks constitute war crimes and are unacceptable," Rovera said.

Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister of Hamas' Gaza government, did not address Amnesty's criticism of the militants' conduct, instead focusing only on Israel's actions.

"We believe the leaders of the occupation state must be tried for these crimes," Haniyeh said.

The report was based on physical evidence and testimony that a team of four researchers, including a military expert, gathered from dozens of attack sites in Gaza and southern Israel during and after the war.

It broke little new ground, concentrating on issues, cases and problems that have been dealt with in other frameworks.

Among the Gaza cases cited were the well-documented shelling of a house where a family took refuge on soldiers' orders before 21 people were killed; an Israeli artillery attack near a U.N. school that killed dozens; and the shelling of a house that killed three daughters of a Gaza doctor who has worked in Israel for years and is a champion of coexistence.

The U.N. is examining the conduct of both sides to the conflict. Hamas allowed veteran war crimes investigator Richard Goldstone and his team into Gaza last month, but Hamas security often accompanied them, raising questions about the ability of witnesses to freely describe the militant group's actions.

Israel has refused to cooperate with the probe, claiming the U.N. council overseeing the investigation is biased.

Israel conducted its own internal investigation earlier this year and cleared the military of wrongdoing. Human rights groups criticized the probe as a whitewash.

Hamas, the Amnesty report noted, continues to justify its attacks on Israel's civilian population.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea