Israel on Sunday defended its conduct in the 2014 Gaza war as “lawful” and “legitimate” in an inter-ministerial report into the deadly 50-day conflict.
Israel claimed its forces did not intentionally target civilians or civilian targets, drawing conclusions that were rejected out of hand by the Palestinians.
The internal report, which was put together by the foreign and justice ministries with input from the military and the National Security Council, was released two weeks before a UN report into the conflict.
The conflict ended with an informal ceasefire on August 26 after claiming the lives of nearly 2,200 Palestinians, most of them civilians, and 73 on the Israeli side, most of them soldiers.
In the document, which is more than 200 pages long, the authors seek to emphasize the environment in which the war was fought and the military’s efforts to avoid harming civilians.
“Much of what may have appeared to external parties to be indiscriminate harm to civilians or purely civilian objects was in fact legitimate attacks against military targets that merely appear civilian but were actually part of the military operations of these terrorist organizations,” it said.
Civilians were harmed as a result of “unfortunate — yet lawful — incidental effects of legitimate military action in the vicinity of civilians and their surroundings,” it claimed.
Among the civilians killed by Israel during the war were more than 500 children.
The report claimed that Israel directed attacks at places and individuals only when there was “reasonable certainty” they constituted military targets or were directly participating in hostilities, it said.
But the Palestinians roundly rejected Israel’s claims.
“Israel’s decision to deny having targeted civilians in Gaza is the logical extension of what it did in the Gaza Strip,” Ihab Bseiso, a spokesman for the Palestinian government in Ramallah, told AFP.
He dismissed the report saying the Palestinians would only accept conclusions from an international inquiry, such as the one which is to be published by the UN Human Rights Council on June 29.
(Agencies and Ma’an – www.maannews.net)