JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israel was “justified under international law” for launching its operation in Gaza last summer, according to a report issued by Israel.
The 277-page report released Sunday said the escalation of attacks on Israel by Hamas and other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip justified its broader military operation. Several government bodies have been working to prepare the report since the end of the 50-day operation known as Protective Edge.
Israel has refused to co-operate with United Nations Commission of Inquiry on the conflict, which is expected to release its findings this week, arguing that its charge made it automatically biased against Israel and that its head, William Schabas, came in biased against Israel. Schabas quit in February; the investigation was concluded by a former New York judge, Mary McGowan Davis.
The Israeli report presents the background to the operation, including the escalation of cross-border attacks by Gaza terror groups. It also examines Israel’s efforts at self-defence, steps taken to minimize civilian Palestinian casualties and Israel’s ongoing investigation since the end of the conflict into violations of the laws of war by its soldiers.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, upon receiving the report, said on Sunday that it “presents the true picture” of Protective Edge.
“The report proves unequivocally that the actions carried out by the IDF and the security forces during the operation were in accordance with international law,” Netanyahu said. “They were done out of the need to defend the citizens of the state from a murderous terrorist organization that perpetrated a double war crime. It deliberately fired at civilians while intentionally hiding behind civilians.
“Whoever wants to automatically – and without foundation – blame Israel, let them waste their time with the UN Human Rights Council report. For our part, we will continue to defend our soldiers and they will continue to defend us.”
According to the report, Israel considered 936 of the 2,125 Palestinians killed – 44 per cent – during the operation to have been members of terrorist organizations. Some 761, or 36 per cent, of the Palestinians killed were considered “uninvolved civilians,” including 369 children. Another 20 per cent were not identified.
Last Friday, a group of former senior military and political leaders from the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Australia and Colombia released a report on a fact-finding mission into the operation that said Israel “significantly exceeded” the international standard of observance of the laws of armed conflict. The group’s mission was underwritten by a pro-Israel group and received unfettered access to information, according to reports.