Monday, April 27, 2009

Israel's Gaza report 'lacks credibility': Amnesty International

Thursday, Apr 23, 2009

The Israeli army's investigation into its recent war in Gaza "lacks credibility" and is no substitute for an independent probe, London-based rights organisation Amnesty International said Thursday.

The Israeli army on Wednesday defended its conduct during the 22-day offensive against Hamas, saying five investigations carried out by the military found the army "operated in accordance with international law."

But Amnesty said the army briefing "lacks crucial details" and failed to explain the overwhelming majority of civilian deaths during the war, including incidents involving shooting at medical facilities.

"In the absence of the necessary evidence to substantiate its allegations, the army's claims appear to be more an attempt to shirk its responsibilities than a genuine process to establish the truth," it said in a briefing note.

"Such an approach lacks credibility."

Amnesty urged Israel to cooperate with a UN commission headed by former international prosecutor Richard Goldstone to probe allegations of crimes during the offensive.

It said: "The Israeli army's probe is no substitute for a thorough, independent and impartial investigation."

A major charge against the Israeli military concerned its use of white phosphorous shells, which are allowed under international law for use on open battlefields to create a smokescreen for troops, but prohibited in densely populated areas.

The army said it had acted in accordance with international humanitarian law, but Amnesty said its assurances "could not be further from the truth."

"Amnesty International researchers on the ground found hundreds of white phosphorus-impregnated felt wedges in residential areas all over Gaza, still smouldering weeks after they had been fired," it said.

It added: "The Israeli army must provide specific, detailed information about why targets were chosen and the means and methods of attack used in order to assess their conclusion that the IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) complied fully with international humanitarian law."