Israel decries ‘unfounded’ Amnesty International Gaza report

Foreign Ministry says ‘decontextualized description of events’ ignores Hamas’s use of civilian infrastructure

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Smoke and debris rise after an Israeli airstrike on the Gaza Strip, as seen from the Israeli side of the Israel-Gaza border on the second day of Operation Protective Edge, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Smoke and debris rise after an Israeli airstrike on the Gaza Strip, as seen from the Israeli side of the Israel-Gaza border on the second day of Operation Protective Edge, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Jerusalem on Tuesday deplored an Amnesty International report accusing Israel of war crimes during the summer conflict in Gaza, saying the monitor used murky sources and focused on monetary costs to Palestinians rather than consider Hamas targeting of Israeli civilians.

In a statement the Foreign Ministry said that the international human rights group offered “a decontextualized description of events, while relying heavily on testimonies gathered by unnamed local ‘fieldworkers,’ who are not identified and whose credibility is never questioned.”

On Monday night, Amnesty International accused the IDF of committing several war crimes during the summer’s Operation Protective Edge campaign in Gaza and called for the charges to be investigated. In particular, 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.

But the ministry said the report “chooses to focus on monetary losses to Palestinian civilians, rather than investigate the systematic and deliberate firing of rockets and mortars at Israel’s civilian population by an internationally-recognized jihadist terror group.”

The Foreign Ministry pointed to apparent contradictions in the report, which had noted the measures the IDF took to avoid civilian causalities but then accused it of committing war crimes.

Safety measures the IDF employed included “advance phone calls, the dropping of leaflets, notice to residents to maintain a safe distance from the buildings, as well as “knock on the roof” warning missiles,” according to the statement.

“These measures are unprecedented in modern warfare, and Amnesty’s report explicitly states that no one was killed in the strikes,” the ministry added.

Despite acknowledging the steps the IDF took to protect noncombatants, the ministry charged,t Amnesty then made “unfounded allegations concerning the conduct of the IDF” by suggesting that Israel intentionally targeted civilians and their property.

“The IDF does not intentionally target civilians or civilian property; its activity is dictated by international law, is directed against military objectives, and abides by the principle of proportionality,” the ministry emphasized. It accused Amnesty of ignoring the IDF’s need to censor some information in order to protect its intelligence gathering methods and sources.

The ministry also panned the group for brushing off “clear evidence” of Hamas’s use of Gaza civilian infrastructure for its own combat needs.

“Amnesty’s inability to determine the military use of these sites does not indicate a lack of such use,” the statement said.

While commending Amnesty for saying that it intends to report on Hamas violations as well, the ministry noted that the current absence of such investigations, together with previous provocative comments from the group’s workers, call into question “Amnesty’s capacity to play a constructive role in covering this issue.”

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 Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry. Israel maintains that about half of those killed were Palestinian fighters; 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.

AFP and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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