Human Rights Watch accused Israel of committing war crimes by attacking three UN-run schools in the Gaza Strip in fighting in July and August, killing Palestinian civilians who had sheltered there.
The New York-based group issued a report on Thursday that it described as the first in-depth documentation of the incidents, which took place during a 50-day conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants that ended in a ceasefire on Aug. 26.
"Three Israeli attacks that damaged Gaza schools housing displaced people caused numerous civilian casualties in violation of the laws of war," it said in the report, based on interviews with witnesses and field research in the Hamas Islamist-dominated enclave.
The group also said it was sceptical about the credibility of five criminal investigations announced by Israel's military on Wednesday into its Gaza war operations.
Human Rights Watch said 45 people, including 17 children, were killed in or near the "well-marked schools" in the strikes on July 24 in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun, on July 30 in Jabalya refugee camp and on Aug. 3 in Rafah, in the south of the enclave.