Report comes days before release of findings of investigation by UN Human Rights Council into possible war crimes by Israel that showcased Israel deliberately targeted children, schools and shelters.
Israel has claimed the Israel Defence Forces’ operation in Gaza last summer was a moral, defensive war conducted in accordance with international law.
The publication on Sunday of a report written in conjunction with Israeli government ministries was timed to occur days before the release of the findings of an investigation by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) into possible war crimes by Israel and Hamas.
The UNHRC report, with which Israel refused to cooperate, is expected to serve as the foundation for the Palestinian case against Israel in the international criminal court, which is due to be submitted on 25 June.
Israel’s report highlights efforts by the IDF to avoid harm to civilians and presents the operation as an “imperative necessity” in response to incessant rocket fire from Gaza and the threat of Hamas infiltrating through its tunnels.
It states that the goals were “restoring security to Israeli civilians living under Hamas rocket fire” and “dismantling the Hamas tunnel network used to infiltrate Israel”.
The majority of the 250-page report is dedicated to showing Hamas’s human rights violations and war crimes. It holds Hamas responsible for many of the Palestinian civilian casualties caused by the IDF, arguing that they were unavoidable due to Hamas’s tactics of embedding militants among civilian populations, whether in homes, schools, mosques or UN buildings.
A section is dedicated to Palestinian fatalities, which deals largely with what it claims are Hamas’s duplicitous numbers. According to the IDF, a total of 2,125 Palestinians were killed during the two-month war, 761 of them, or 36%, uninvolved civilians, including 369 children and 284 women. The UN figures are far higher, with at least 1,483 civilians killed (of a total of 2,205), of whom 521 are children and 283 are women.
Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said the report presented “the true picture” of what happened in Gaza and that the IDF was committed to international law because “Israel is a democracy and a moral country with values”. He added: “Whoever wants to automatically – and without foundation – blame Israel, let them waste their time with the UN Human Rights Council report.”
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri rejected the report, saying “Israeli war crimes are clear because they were committed in front of live cameras,” Reuters reported.
The Palestinian Authority also rejected the report. “Israel’s decision
to deny having targeted civilians in Gaza is the logical extension of
what it did in the Gaza Strip,” Ihab Bseiso, a government
representative, told AFP.