Human rights monitor Amnesty International accused the IDF Tuesday of committing several war crimes during the Gaza conflict this summer and called for the charges to be investigated.
The destruction of four multi-story buildings during the last four days of the 50-day war were in breach of international humanitarian law, the group said in a report.
“All the evidence we have shows this large-scale destruction was carried out deliberately and with no military justification,” said Philip Luther, director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa program.
“War crimes must be independently and impartially investigated and those responsible should be brought to justice in fair trials.”
Evidence including statements by the Israeli military at the time indicate the attacks were “a collective punishment against the people of Gaza” designed to destroy their livelihoods, Luther added.
There was no immediate reaction to the Amnesty statement from Israeli authorities.
However, Jerusalem has refused to cooperate with a United Nations inquiry into possible war crimes during the conflict, accusing it of bias.
The IDF said during the war it worked to minimize civilian casualties, warning non-combatants to leave areas before bombings and taking other safeguards during the summer military campaign.
The Israeli army has launched a series of criminal investigations into incidents in the war, including the shelling of a UN school that medics said killed at least 15 people and the bombing of a beach where four children died.
More than 2,100 Palestinians were killed in the war between Israel and Hamas-led fighters, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.
Israel maintains that about half of those killed were Hamas fighters, though Gazan officials say most were civilians. On the Israeli side 73 people were killed, including 66 soldiers. Many of the casualties on the Israeli side stemmed from indiscriminate Palestinian shelling of Israeli towns and cities.
One of the landmark buildings destroyed in Gaza was the Municipal Commercial Center in Rafah, which contained a shopping mall, a medical clinic and offices, and provided livelihoods for hundreds of families, the Amnesty International report said.
Residents of the buildings about to be destroyed were warned to leave by the Israeli military, but they did not have time to salvage important belongings, it added.
Scores of people from nearby buildings were injured, and hundreds lost their homes, according to the rights group.
Israeli authorities had said that one building housed a command center of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, and that another had “facilities linked to Palestinian militants,” according to the report.
However, Luther said the military still “had an obligation to choose means and methods of attack that would minimize harm to civilians and their property.”
“The Israeli army have previously conducted airstrikes on specific apartments in high-rise buildings without their complete destruction,” he added.
The rights group said it had sent its findings about the airstrikes to Israeli authorities with questions about why each attack was carried out, but had not received an adequate response.
The report called for Amnesty International and other rights groups to be allowed access to Gaza and for the UN inquiry to be allowed “to conduct its investigation without hindrance.”