Both Israel and the Palestinians committed war crimes during the November 2012 conflict in Gaza, according to a report by human rights watchdog Amnesty International published on Thursday.
The report on the state of the world’s human rights stated that during Operation Pillar of Defense the Israeli Air Force bombed residential areas in Gaza, “including strikes that were disproportionate and caused heavy civilian casualties.”
Hamas operatives and Palestinian terrorists, meanwhile, committed war crimes by launching rockets at Israel’s civilian population, the report said, noting that with their actions both sides violated international humanitarian law.
Amnesty said 160 Palestinians died during the conflict as Israel carried out major airstrikes on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip in an effort to halt Palestinian rocket fire on Israeli cities. The report said that 100 Palestinian civilians, including 30 children, died, and noted the death of six Israeli citizens.
According to IDF figures at the time, 57 of the Palestinians who died during the operation were civilians, the rest being enemy combatants.
The Amnesty report also said that at the end of 2012 Israel was holding more than 4,500 Palestinian prisoners, including 178 administrative detainees, noting that numbers were down compared to previous years. Palestinian detainees reported torture at the hands of Israeli authorities, including painful shackling or binding of the limbs, immobilization in stress positions, sleep deprivation, threats and verbal abuse, and denial of access to legal representation for days or even weeks.
The Palestinian Authority and Hamas were both accused of arbitrarily arresting hundreds of people, most of whom were denied due legal process. The Independent Commission for Human Rights, a Palestinian human rights group, received complaints of 685 arbitrary arrests in the West Bank and 470 in Gaza during 2012. According to the report “detainees were tortured or otherwise ill-treated with impunity” by both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Alleged methods included beatings, suspension by the wrists or ankles, and enforced standing or sitting in painful positions for long periods.
The report also said Israel failed to ensure accountability for forces responsible for killing or injuring Palestinian civilians or using torture methods on detainees. Likewise, the report claimed Israeli authorities faltered in their responsibility to protect Palestinians and their property from attacks by Israeli settlers.
On the Palestinian side, Hamas has not investigated any accusations of war crimes or possibly crimes against humanity committed by armed groups during Operation Pillar of Defense, the report said. In addition neither Hamas nor the PA have “credibly investigated allegations of torture and other abuses by their security forces or held perpetrators to account.”
Amnesty raised a range of human rights concerns for Israel’s regional neighbors as well.
In Egypt, unfair trials by Emergency Supreme State Security Courts continued and security forces continued to “act above the law,” according to the report. Journalists and activists were prosecuted for “insulting the president” and blasphemy. Amnesty found that women faced discrimination in law and practice as well as widespread sexual harassment.
Iran continued to enforce “severe restrictions on freedoms of expression, association and assembly,” Amnesty said. Dissidents and human rights defenders were arbitrarily arrested, detained incommunicado, imprisoned after unfair trials and banned from traveling abroad. There were scores of prisoners of conscience and political prisoners. The report described that the “cruel judicial punishments of flogging and amputation continued to be used.” While Iran officially acknowledged 314 executions, 544 were recorded and the true figure may be “considerably higher.”
The conflict in Syria “was marked by gross human rights abuses, war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Amnesty said. While government forces conducted “indiscriminate bombings” of residential areas, rebel forces “tortured and/or summarily killed government soldiers and militia members after taking them prisoner and carried out indiscriminate bombings that killed or injured civilians.”