Amnesty: Israel Committed War Crimes in Lebanon Campaign

Rights group: IDF engaged in deliberate targeting of civilians, destruction of civilian infrastructure.

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LONDON - In a report to be released Wednesday, Amnesty International accuses Israel of war crimes, saying it broke international law by deliberately destroying Lebanon's civilian infrastructure during its recent war with Hezbollah guerrillas.

The human rights group said initial evidence, including the pattern and scope of the Israeli attacks, high number of civilian casualties, widespread damage and statements by Israeli officials "indicate that such destruction was deliberate and part of a military strategy, rather than 'collateral damage.'"

Amnesty International, whose delegates monitored the fighting in both Israel and Lebanon, said Israel violated international laws banning direct attacks on civilians and barring indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks.

The group urged the United Nations to look into whether both combatants, Israel and Hezbollah, broke international law.

Amnesty International said it would address Hezbollah's attacks on Israel separately.

A senior Israeli government official, in Jerusalem, said his country acted legally.

"Israel conformed to every international law. We had attorneys in every meeting, everything we did along the way we fully explored international law," said the official, who was not authorized to speak to the media on the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Israel suffered international condemnation when it attacked targets in southern Lebanon hours after Hezbollah guerrillas operating there killed three Israeli soldiers and captured two in a cross-border raid July 12.

The Israel Defense Forces has said that between that raid and the August 14 UN-brokered cease-fire, it launched more than 7,000 air attacks on Lebanese targets and the navy conducted about 2,500 bombardments.

The UN's children's fund, UNICEF, estimates that some 1,183 people died, mostly civilians and about a third of them children, while the Lebanese Higher Relief Council says 4,054 people were injured and 970,000 displaced. UN officials reported that around 15,000 civilian homes were destroyed.

The Amnesty report cited "the widespread destruction of apartments, houses, electricity and water services, roads, bridges, factories and ports," which, taken with statements by Israeli officials, "suggests a policy of punishing both the Lebanese government and the civilian population in an effort to get them to turn against Hezbollah," it said.

It accused Israel of applying an overly broad interpretation of what constituted a military objective when it attacked power plants, bridges, main roads, seaports and Beirut's international airport, all of which are "presumed to be civilian."



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