Amnesty International has accused Israel of continuous violation of human rights in the Gaza Strip, condemning its ongoing siege of the Palestinian enclave.
In its annual report released on Thursday, the human rights watchdog praised a UN report on the Gaza war released last year by South African justice Richard Goldstone for highlighting Israeli violations during the conflict.
"Israeli forces committed war crimes and other serious breaches of international law in the Gaza Strip during a 22-day military offensive codenamed ‘Operation Cast Lead’ that ended on 18 January (2009)," Haaretz quoted the rights group as saying.
"Among other things, they carried out indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks against civilians, targeted and killed medical staff, used Palestinian civilians as ‘human shields’, and indiscriminately fired white phosphorus over densely populated residential areas," Amnesty added.
The human rights group also charged the US and the European Union with obstructing international justice by using their positions on the UN Security Council to shield Israel from accountability for war crimes it committed during last year’s Gaza war.
On the long-standing blockade of the Gaza Strip, Amnesty International condemned the move as a "gratuitous exacerbation of the privations" already suffered by Gazans.
"All too predictably, it hit hardest on the most vulnerable – children, the elderly, the homeless and the sick, including those in need of medical treatment outside," the website for the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth quoted the human rights group as saying.
Amnesty’s report, denoting the mass unemployment, extreme poverty, food insecurity and food price rises in the besieged Gaza Strip, said shortages have left some 80 percent of Gazans dependent on humanitarian aid.
The report further condemned the blockade as "an outrage," a "flagrant violation of international law" and a disguise on a collective punishment of Gazans — ostensibly imposed to stop Palestinian rocket attacks into Israel.