Pre-empting the publication of a United Nations report on last year’s 50-day war in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli government on Sunday released its own assessment of the conflict, presenting “detailed factual and legal information” about the offensive in the densely-populated Palestinian enclave. The report argues that Israel’s assault was an “imperative necessity” in response to indiscriminate rocket fire and mortar attacks by Hamas.
“The range of these rockets covered more than 70 percent of Israel’s civilian population, bringing the hostilities to the entire country,” the report claims. “By deliberately targeting Israeli cities and the civilian population, as part of a widespread and systematic policy, Hamas and other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip violated customary norms of the Law of Armed Conflict and committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
Human rights groups have, in the past, accused both Israel and Hamas -- which controls the Gaza Strip -- of committing war crimes during the conflict. While the United Nations pegs the number of people killed in Gaza at 2,205, including 1,483 civilians, the new report claimed that these numbers were inflated as they were based solely on sources controlled by Hamas.
“The IDF’s [Israel Defense Forces] analysis of fatalities demonstrates that while the 2014 Gaza Conflict did unfortunately result in civilian fatalities, the number and percentage of Palestinian civilian fatalities is actually much lower than has been reported in many channels,” the report states. “IDF’s preliminary analysis has determined that 2,125 Palestinians were killed during the 2014 Gaza Conflict. Of these fatalities, the IDF estimates that at least 936 (44 percent of the total) were actually militants and that 761 (36 percent of the total) were civilians.”
The report also includes aerial photography and maps of alleged Hamas activity near sensitive sites like U.N. schools. Earlier, in a report released in April, the U.N. had directly blamed the Israeli military for attacks on seven of its buildings, including schools being used as shelters for displaced Palestinians.
The report comes just days after the Israeli military cleared itself of charges of suspected criminal conduct over a bombing of a beach in the Gaza Strip that led to the deaths of four Palestinian children during the war last year. The incident, which had been witnessed by several journalists covering the war, was labeled a “tragic accident” by the office of Israel’s advocate general.
The findings of the latest report were rejected by both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. “Israeli war crimes are clear because they were committed in front of live cameras,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told Agence France-Presse.