Israel 'committed war crimes in Gaza'

Original source:

Amnesty has accused the Israeli military of 'reckless conduct, disregard for civilian lives and a consistent failure to distinguish between military targets and civilians.'

In the first in-depth report by a rights group on the recent blitz on Gaza, Amnesty - which first accused Israel of war crimes shortly after the offensive ended in January - affirmed that the offensive amounted to a war crime.

And it observed that 'disturbing questions' remain about why 'high-precision weapons' like tank shells, air-delivered bombs and missiles 'killed so many children and other civilians.'

Amnesty said that some 300 children and 900 other unarmed civilians were among the 1,400 Palestinians killed during the three-week offensive.

It determined that Palestinian resistance fighters killed 10 Israeli soldiers and three civilians - who died by rocket fire.

The group called on Tel Aviv to publicly pledge not to use artillery, white phosphorus and other inaccurate weaponry in densely populated areas.

It also urged the Hamas administration in Gaza to stop rocket fire against Israeli civilians - attacks that it also described as war crimes.

Israel and Hamas both branded the report unbalanced.

Tel Aviv charged that Amnesty 'succumbed to the manipulations of the Hamas terror organisation' and Hamas accused the rights group of downplaying the scale of the destruction Israel left behind.

The Islamist resistance group accused Israeli forces of using Palestinians as 'human shields' and pointed out that Israeli troops frequently blocked civilians from receiving medical care and humanitarian aid.

The Israeli military charged that the report failed to recognise 'the unbearable reality of nine years of incessant and indiscriminate rocket fire on the citizens of Israel.'

Hamas called a news conference to denounce the report, where spokesman Fawzi Barhoum argued that it 'equated the victim and the executioner and denied our people's right to resist the occupation.'

The UN is currently examining the conduct of both sides in the conflict.

Hamas allowed veteran war-crimes investigator Richard Goldstone and his team into Gaza last month, but Israel has refused to co-operate with the probe, claiming that the UN council overseeing the investigation is biased.

Israel conducted an investigation earlier this year and cleared the military of wrongdoing.