Jerusalem: Amnesty report ignores context of Gaza war

Israel also slams NGO for relying on anonymous sources.

A Palestinian woman in the Gaza town of Beit Hanoun surveys the devastation (photo credit: REUTERS)
A Palestinian woman in the Gaza town of Beit Hanoun surveys the devastation
(photo credit: REUTERS)
An Amnesty International report accusing the IDF of a war crime for destroying four Gaza high-rises in the final days of this summer’s conflict describes the event “out of context,” Israel’s embassy in London said in a statement Tuesday.
According to the embassy, not only does the Amnesty report take matters out of context, but it also relies entirely on evidence gleaned from anonymous local sources whom it refuses to identify, and whose reliability it does not question.
Amnesty, the statement further stated, ignores the clear evidence that Hamas deliberately and systemically used civilians as human shields.
Philip Luther, director of the organization’s Middle East and North Africa program, determined that the buildings were destroyed on purpose and had no military justification.
Luther said that Israel’s actions were a collective punishment against the citizens of Gaza, “meant to destroy their already precarious livelihoods.”
“Even if the Israeli authorities had good reason to believe that a part of a building was being used for military purposes, they had an obligation to choose means and methods of attack that would minimize harm to civilians and their property,” he said.
IDF Advocate-General Maj.-Gen. Danny Efroni addressed criticism by Amnesty and others last week, saying there is no precedent for the extent to which Hamas systematically endangered civilians directly and indirectly as human shields during Operation Protective Edge this summer.
Efroni said that the army was internationally criticized – unfairly and for political reasons, in his opinion – for three aspects: the IDF’s striking of Hamas members’ private homes, the large cumulative number of civilian casualties, and the use of artillery in urban fighting.
Hamas members used their houses as command centers, in which they also gave orders regarding the firing of rockets at Israel, he said, adding that criticism of the IDF for hitting them would simply encourage Hamas to continue its illegal tactic.
Next, Efroni slammed the IDF’s critics for leaning hard on Israel, which at least tried to take precautions to minimize non-combatant casualties, as opposed to on Hamas, regarding the high civilian casualties.
There is no legal basis to judge the IDF as violating the laws of armed conflict simply on the volume of civilian deaths, he added.
Many Western armed forces have used artillery in urban settings and in some fighting situations. When there is no air power or infantry answer, artillery is necessary, even if it is more of a last resort, he concluded.
On November 5, Amnesty International slammed the state for “callous indifference” to civilians in alleged attacks on civilian homes.
Zoning in on eight cases, the report concluded that the IDF committed war crimes and pressed Israel and “Palestine” to join the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court or for the UN Security Council to refer the situation to the ICC.
NGO Monitor responded by criticizing Amnesty’s methodology both in the specific report and in general, saying the rights group lacks the military expertise and intelligence information to properly analyze the cases.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.