Is­rael is­sues own Gaza war re­port

The move ap­pears to be an ef­fort to soften the blow of ex­pected U.N. doc­u­ment.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Bat­sheva So­bel­man So­bel­man is a spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent.

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.

Said Khatib AFP/Getty Images

SMOKE RISES af­ter an Is­raeli airstrike in July on the air­port in Rafah in the south­ern Gaza Strip.

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