Jerusalem: International human rights organisation, Human Rights Watch on Tuesday accused the Israeli military of carrying out attacks that "apparently amount to war crimes" during an 11-day war in May against the Hamas militant group.
HRW issued its conclusions after investigating three Israeli airstrikes that it said killed 62 Palestinian civilians. It said "there were no evident military targets in the vicinity" of the attacks.
The report also accused Palestinian militants of apparent war crimes by launching over 4,000 unguided rockets and mortars at Israeli population centers. Such attacks, it said, violate "the prohibition against deliberate or indiscriminate attacks against civilians."
However, the focus of the report was Israel whose actions in the Jerusalem neighbourhood led to the clashes, and HRW said it would issue a separate report on the actions of Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups in August.
"Israeli forces carried out attacks in Gaza in May that devastated entire families without any apparent military target nearby," said Gerry Simpson, associate crisis and conflict director at HRW.
He said Israel's "consistent unwillingness to seriously investigate alleged war crimes," coupled with Palestinian rocket fire at Israeli civilian areas, underscored the importance of an ongoing investigation into both sides by the International Criminal Court, or ICC.
In a statement, the Israeli army explained that its attacks were aimed at military targets and that it took numerous precautions to avoid harming civilians. It blamed Hamas as responsible for civilian casualties because it launches attacks from residential areas.
"While the terror organizations in the Gaza Strip deliberately embed their military assets in densely populated civilian areas, the IDF takes every feasible measure to minimize, as much as possible, the harm to civilians and civilian property," it said.
The war erupted on May 10 following Israel's heavy-handed policing of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers in a nearby neighborhood, in response to which Hamas fired a barrage of rockets toward Jerusalem in support of Palestinian protests against Israel's eviction. Israel has said it struck over 1,000 targets during the fighting.
(Based on PTI feed)