Israel defended its military operation in the Gaza Strip last summer in a report that accuses Palestinian militants of war crimes, as it attempts to parry allegations that its own forces committed crimes against humanity.
Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold said the report’s release was timed to preempt an upcoming United Nations review of the conflict expected to be critical of Israel’s wartime conduct. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, upon receiving the ministry’s 277-page report Sunday, derided the UN review, saying reading it would be “a waste of time.”
Israel’s report “proves unequivocally that the actions carried out by the Israeli military and the security forces during the operation were in accordance with international law,” Netanyahu said at the weekly meeting of his cabinet in Jerusalem. “They were done out of the need to defend the citizens of the state from a murderous terrorist organization that perpetrated a double war crime: It deliberately fired at civilians while intentionally hiding behind civilians.”
Palestinians and some human rights groups including Amnesty International have accused Israeli soldiers of war crimes during the 50-day conflict, and these allegations are under investigation at the International Criminal Court. The battle of narratives has intensified as the Palestinians campaign to isolate Israel diplomatically after the collapse of peace talks last year.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri dismissed the Israeli findings. “The report won’t help the occupation at all in hiding the Israeli war crimes committed before journalists’ cameras,” Abu Zuhri said by phone.
Israel says it initiated its Gaza operation to halt rocket attacks by Palestinian militant groups and destroy underground tunnels built by Hamas for cross-border attacks. About 2,100 Gazans, including hundreds of women and children, and 70 Israelis, most of them soldiers, were killed.
Critics assail the military’s investigation of its own conduct as biased and insufficient. An Israeli inquiry that recently cleared the military of criminal conduct in a Gaza beach bombing last summer that killed four Palestinian children was criticized by foreign journalists who witnessed it.
Israel says the United Human Rights Council’s probe into the Gaza conflict is biased, given that body’s frequent criticism of Israeli policy toward the Palestinians. Gold said its findings were expected later this month.
A group of military officials advising that inquiry found that “Israel not only met but significantly exceeded international legal standards” in the Gaza conflict, according to a copy of their report released Saturday by UN Watch, a private group that monitors the UN.