Israel issues own Gaza war report
The move appears to be an effort to soften the blow of expected U.N. document.
JERUSALEM — In an apparent effort to soften the blow of an expected United Nations report on the Gaza Strip war, Israel published its own report Sunday on last year’s deadly conf lict, defending the need for the military offensive and accusing Hamas of war crimes.
The report, released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, details the sequence of events, beginning with the kidnapping and killing of three Jewish teens in the West Bank and a massive rocket attack on southern Israel that followed Israel’s crackdown on Hamas, the militant Palestinian organization that controls the Gaza Strip.
The escalation reached a critical point July 7 with a barrage from Gaza of more than 60 rockets. According to the report, Israel was “left with no choice but to launch an aerial campaign … to protect its civilian population.” The report states that Israel’s decision to undertake a broad military operation to curb the attacks waged by Palestinian militants was “justified under international law.”
The report accuses Hamas and other militant groups of deliberately embedding their military assets within heavily populated civilian areas and structures, exploiting civilians and putting them at risk in contravention of international law and in a way that “often constituted war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
A spokesman for Hamas, Sami abu Zuhri, was quoted in Israeli media as dismissing the report and calling it “worthless.”
More than 2,100 Palestinians and 72 Israelis were killed in the fighting. The United Nations has said that the majority of the Palestinians killed were civilians, including about 500 children; Israel says that hundreds of the dead were Hamas fighters.
The report emphasizes that Israel’s military adheres to international law, taking what it says were unprecedented precautions to minimize harm to civilians, including aborting missions, as well as investigating allegations of criminal misconduct.
Despite the army’s efforts, “civilian casualties and damage to civilian objects regrettably resulted from Israeli attacks against military objectives,” the report says, stating, however, that these must be seen in context of the “reality of hostilities in a complex and rapidly changing urban terrain.”
The army’s advocate general and a special fact-finding group have been reviewing about 190 cases of alleged misconduct, some resulting in criminal investigations, according to the latest update last week.
The first criminal inquiries were ordered in September, shortly after a truce halted the fighting.
Even before its release, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the expected report of the special panel appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council, saying the body was biased and hostile toward Israel.
“This is an organization that has passed more decisions against Israel than against Syria, Iran and North Korea combined,” he said.
SMOKE RISES after an Israeli airstrike in July on the airport in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.