Amnesty: Both Israel, Hamas guilty of war crimes

Annual report on human rights slams both sides for failing to take accountability; Hamas dismisses report as "unfair."

Gazan behind prison bars 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohammed Salem )
Gazan behind prison bars 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohammed Salem )
Both Israel and Hamas committed war crimes and other violations of international humanitarian law during Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza in November of last year, Amnesty International concluded in a report released on Thursday.
In the London-based rights group's annual report on the state of the world’s human rights, the NGO stated that during Operation Pillar of Defense the Israeli Air Force bombed residential areas in Gaza, “including strikes that were disproportionate and caused heavy civilian casualties.”
Both sides were accused of failing to investigate accusations into war crimes or crimes against humanity during Operation Pillar of Defense.
According to Amnesty, in most cases, Israel did not present evidence that the specific sites cited as military targets had been used for military purposes. The organization also accused the navy of "indiscriminate attacks" in populated coastal areas.
Turning to Hamas and other armed groups, Amnesty condemned the firing of rockets and other weapons into Israeli territory, "killing civilians and damaging civilian property."
Amnesty noted that, with their actions, both sides violated international humanitarian law during the Gaza operation. While Amnesty claimed some 160 Palestinians died during the conflict, noting 100 of whom were civilians. This conflicts with IDF figures of the time, which states that 57 of the Palestinians who died during the operation were civilians.
It also said armed Islamist groups were responsible for the deaths of at least two Palestinians after rockets fell short of their targets in Israel.
Amnesty accused Israel of collective punishment against the population of Gaza and the West Bank, stating that over 500 Israeli checkpoints and barriers in the West Bank, as well as the separation wall, restrict Palestinians’ movement.
The report cited harassment and abuse of Palestinians at checkpoints by Israeli personnel. It added that as Israel’s military blockade of the Gaza Strip enters its sixth year, its impact on basic infrastructure, including water, sanitation and power supplies continue to be severe.
On the issue of settlements, Amnesty stated Israel has forcibly evicted some 870 Palestinians from their homes, affecting at least 1600 others. For the first time in seven years, 14 new outposts and settlements were established, with support from the Israeli authorities, according to the report.
"In addition to 100 civilians killed during the November conflict in Gaza, Israeli forces killed at least 35 civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories during the year," Amnesty stated in the annual human rights report. The NGO accused Israel of evading accountability for the killings of civilians, and claimed the Israeli authorities "faltered in their responsibility to protect Palestinians and their property from attacks by Israeli settlers."
The Palestinian Authority and Hamas were both accused of arbitrarily arresting hundreds of Palestinians, many of whom “were tortured or otherwise ill-treated with impunity” and denied due legal process.
The Amnesty report also claimed that at the end of 2012 Israel was holding more than 4,500 Palestinian prisoners, including 178 administrative detainees, noting that numbers were lower than in compared to previous years.
Palestinian news agency Ma'an quoted a Hamas spokesman as dismissing much of the report as "unfair and lacking objectivity."
Fawzi Barhoum said Amnesty International forgot that it was Israel who started the war, Ma'an quoted him as saying.
Amnesty’s global annual report is a country-by-country survey of the human rights record of 159 individual countries and territories, in 2012.
This year’s report appears to focus on challenges faced by refugees, internally displaced people and migrants as around the world major emergencies in Syria, Sudan, Mali and others witnessed large numbers of people flee to seek refuge elsewhere.