07/02/2009, 00.00
ISRAEL - PALESTINE
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For Amnesty Israel and Hamas guilty of war crimes in Gaza

by Joshua Lapide
The international organisation accuses Israeli soldiers of killing scores of civilians, using them as ‘human shields’. Hamas is accused of launching rockets against Israeli towns and endangering the lives of Palestinian civilians. Both Israel and Hamas reject report’s findings. UN inquiry continues.

Jerusalem  (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Israel inflicted "wanton destruction" during its 22-day war on the Gaza Strip in December and January, Amnesty International said in the first independent probe into Israel’s ‘Cast Lead’ operation’.

Based on eyewitness accounts the report shows that Israel hit civilians using high-precision weapons and employed phosphorous weapons, which are banned under international law, in densely populated areas.

Amnesty also accuses Hamas of war crimes because it endangered civilians and launched rockets against Israeli towns.

Both Israel and Hamas have rejected the report’s findings.

In the 117-page document Amnesty raises questions about why high-precision weapons like tank shells and air-delivered bombs and missiles killed so many children and other civilians and why Israel failed to distinguish between military targets and civilians and civilian objects,"

According to Amnesty at least 1,400 Palestinians were killed during ‘Cast Lead’, including some 300 children and many hundreds of civilians.

Israel has claimed that Hamas deliberately used civilians as "human shields" during the conflict, using civilian buildings and homes to launch their rockets.

However, Amnesty found only one case in which Palestinian civilians blamed Hamas for using a school to launch its rockets.

Instead it accused the IDF of using Palestinians as human shields, frequently forcing them to remain in or near houses which they took over and used as military positions.

Amnesty accused Hamas of endangering the lives of civilians in Gaza by operating near their homes.

It also accused the Islamist organisation of indiscriminately launching rockets into southern Israel. Although rarely caused casualties, these missiles often sowed fear and panic amongst Israeli citizens.

The Israeli military put the Palestinian death toll at 1,166, including 295 were civilians.

Thirteen Israelis were killed, including three civilians.

Currently the United Nations is conducting its own investigation into the actions of Israel and Hamas during the Gaza War.

Israel has however refused to co-operate with the UN inquiry, arguing that its investigators are prejudiced against Israel.

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