Rights group Amnesty International is calling for an investigation into the Israeli military’s actions during its 50-day war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

In a new report Wednesday, Amnesty says Israel carried out an “unprecedented number of attacks on inhabited homes,” causing an “appalling” scale of death and destruction.

Israel’s Foreign Affairs Ministry dismissed the report as “extremely biased” and “decontextualized”. It says despite producing no evidence into the alleged crimes perpetuated by Israel, the report also ignores documented war crimes committed by Hamas including the use of human shields and shooting at civilian populations.

The fighting in July and August killed more than 2,100 Palestinians in Gaza, most of them civilians, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians.

Human rights violations

Amnesty’s report cites both sides for committing serious human rights violations, but focuses on Israeli bombings of occupied buildings in Gaza.  It says Israel did not take necessary precautions to ensure the attacks would not harm civilians.

Phillip Luther, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa director, said Israeli forces showed “callous indifference” for the destruction they caused along with a “shocking disregard” for Palestinians not involved in the fighting.

Israel says it is launching investigations into over 90 incidents and that two criminal investigations are also underway.

The report says Amnesty identified several cases in which a fighter was in a building that Israel bombed, but that their presence alone should not have made the site a military target.  Amnesty says Israel could have canceled, postponed or revised attacks in order to make it less likely they would harm civilians or their property.

Ahead of some airstrikes the Israeli military dropped flyers warning civilians to evacuate areas it said were being used by militants to launch rockets into Israeli territory.

Few safety options

But many of the Palestinians said they had few options of places to go in the densely populated enclave along the Mediterranean Sea.  Tens of thousands of displaced Palestinians found shelter at schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza, but Israeli bombs also damaged many of those sites, killing civilians and several staff as well.

Amnesty says the international community should lead a human rights investigation because Israel has a “long-standing failure to investigate and prosecute alleged war crimes.”

The report faults both Israel and the Palestinians for not taking what it calls “meaningful measures” to address serious violations and bring those responsible to justice.  It says ending that kind of impunity would help deter future violations from taking place.


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