Amnesty International has accused Israel of repeatedly violating the rules of armed conflict during its recent offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
"Israeli forces repeatedly breached the laws of war, including by carrying out direct attacks on civilians and civilian buildings and attacks targeting Palestinian militants that caused a disproportionate toll among civilians," the human rights watchdog said in its annual report.
The report states that 1,400 Palestinians were killed in the offensive - including 300 children - and that 5,000 people were wounded. The Israel Defense Forces, however, says 1,166 Palestinians were killed, the vast majority of whom were Hamas militants.
The report mentions Israel's stated goal in the 3-week campaign: The desire to stem rocket and mortar attacks by Palestinian militants on southern Israel. The report goes on to note that three Israeli civilians were killed during the operation, which was in December 2008 and January 2009, in addition to the seven Israeli civilians who were killed by Qassam rockets and other Palestinian attacks launched from Gaza in 2008.
According to the report, the hostilities erupted after suffering the consequences of an Israel-led blockade on the Gaza Strip for a year-and-a-half.
"The blockade throttled almost all economic life and led growing numbers of Palestinians to become dependent on international food aid; even terminally ill patients were prevented from leaving to obtain medical care that could not be provided by Gaza's resource- and medicine-starved hospitals," Amnesty said.
The report also accuses Israeli security forces of destroying many Palestinian homes in the West Bank on the pretext that they were built illegally.
Jerusalem-based watchdog NGO Monitor responded to the report by accusing Amnesty International of focusing disproportionately on Israeli policy in Gaza and of not paying enough attention to the cross-border rocket attacks against Israel civilians.
The watchdog, headed by Bar Ilan University Professor Gerald Steinberg, added that Amnesty's biased and disproportionate obsession with Israel reached its peak during the latest conflict in Gaza.
According to NGO Monitor, Amnesty International published more than 20 declarations during the Gaza offensive, most of them critical of Israel, even while violations of human rights included a massacre of more than 600 villagers by Ugandan rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo to which Amnesty devoted minimal attention.
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