Israel blasts Amnesty Int'l charge of war crimes in Gaza; calls organization biased

Israeli officials blasted an Amnesty International report accusing the Jewish state of war crimes during the war in Gaza this summer, calling it the latest example of the organization's bias against the Jewish state.

The report released Wednesday accused Israel of "callous indifference" in conducting attacks on family homes in the densely populated coastal area, where the Israel Defense Forces conducted an operation to stop rocket attacks and tunneling in an offensive that the UN says left more than 2,000 Palestinians dead. But Israeli officials and an Israel-based watchdog group said the report failed to take into account "documented war crimes by Hamas," the terrorist organization that controls Gaza.

"The report does not mention the word terror in relation to Hamas or other armed Palestinian groups, nor mentions tunnels built by Hamas to infiltrate Israel and perpetrate terror attacks," an Israeli officials said.

Israel launched the Gaza operation in early July, following a crackdown by Israeli forces in the West Bank, where troops arrested scores of Hamas members, in response to the kidnapping and killings of three teenage Israelis in June by Hamas operatives. Several weeks later, Jewish extremists kidnapped and burned to death a Palestinian teenager in east Jerusalem in an apparent revenge attack.

But the summer war was the fiercest conflict between the two sides in years.

"Israeli forces have brazenly flouted the laws of war by carrying out a series of attacks on civilian homes, displaying callous indifference to the carnage caused," said Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa program.

During the 50 days of fighting, Hamas fired thousands of rockets and mortars at Israeli towns and cities, including Tel Aviv, and used a sophisticated tunnel network to carry out attacks on Israeli military encampments in southern Israel, close to the Gaza border. Some of the tunnels also had exits abutting Israeli civilian communities, giving Hamas the ability to attack them as well.

For its part, Israeli forces carried out sustained aerial, artillery and infantry attacks in Gaza, many of which the Amnesty report found to be indiscriminate.

Israel says the military was as careful as possible to avoid civilian casualties citing its system of providing warning to civilians that strikes on their buildings were coming when possible. It argues that the heavy civilian death toll is Hamas' fault, accusing the Islamic militant group of launching rockets — and drawing retaliation — from school yards, residential areas and mosques.

"Amnesty's claims had no validity when they were first made, without evidence, during the fighting, and they have no more credibility now, despite the façade of 'research' and 'investigations'." said Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor. "For many years, we have shown that Amnesty's 'reports' on Israel lack credibility and are based on double standards that reflect a radical ideological agenda under the façade of universal human rights."

The Associated Press contributed to this report