Deliberate killing of children, wanton destruction of homes and the bombing of a civilian population with white phosphorus were some of the war crimes Israel committed during its 22-day Gaza war, Amnesty International said in a report released on Thursday, July 2.
"Many were killed when their homes were bombed while they slept. Others were sitting in their yard or hanging the laundry on the roof," concluded the 117-page report.
The report, "Operation ‘Cast Lead’: 22 days of death and destruction," is the first in-depth human rights report on the Israeli war which killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, including 300 children and 115 women.
"Children were struck while playing in their bedrooms or on the roof, or near their homes," it said.
"Paramedics and ambulances were repeatedly attacked while attempting to rescue the wounded or recover the dead."
The report said the scale and intensity of the attacks were unprecedented, even in the context of the increasingly lethal Israeli military campaigns in Gaza in previous years.
"More Palestinians were killed and more properties were destroyed in the 22-day military campaign than in any previous Israeli offensive."
Amnesty insisted that the destruction of homes, businesses and public buildings and the reduction of entire neighborhoods to rubble were unjustified.
"Much of the destruction was wanton and resulted from direct attacks on civilian objects as well as indiscriminate attacks that failed to distinguish between legitimate military targets and civilian objects."
The international rights group said "disturbing questions" over the civilian killing and destruction can not be dismissed simply as "collateral damage" as Israel argues.
"Such attacks violated fundamental provisions of international humanitarian law."
The London-based group refuted Israeli claims that Palestinian fighters used Gazans as human shield.
"Contrary to repeated allegations by Israeli officials of the use of ‘human shields’, Amnesty International found no evidence that Hamas or other Palestinian fighters directed the movement of civilians to shield military objectives from attacks."
Israel has cited such allegations to justify the high civilian death toll of the Gaza war.
However, Amnesty accused Palestinian groups of violating the international humanitarian law.
"They launched rockets and located military equipment and positions near civilian homes, endangering the lives of the inhabitants by exposing them to the risk of Israeli attacks," it said.
"Though less lethal, these attacks, using unguided rockets which cannot be directed at specific targets, violated international humanitarian law."
Hamas rejected the accusations.
"The report was unfair and unbalanced since it puts the victim and executioner on an equal footing," spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told a news conference in Gaza.
He asserted that Amnesty investigators did not reach out to any Hamas leader for comment on the accusations.
(IslamOnline.net and Agencies)