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[Published: Saturday July 04 2009]

London, 02 July – (ANA) - Israeli forces killed 1,400 Palestinians during the offensive in the Gaza Strip, including 300 children and hundreds of other unarmed civilians who took no part in the conflict, according to the London-based human rights group Amnesty International.

In a report released in London Thursday, the organisation accused Israel of "wanton destruction" in Gaza during the offensive in December and January in the Hamas-run enclave in attacks that often targeted Palestinian civilians.

The report indicated that the destruction of 3,000 homes and the damaging of 20,000 others in the Israeli attacks which reduced entire neighbourhoods of Gaza to rubble and left an already dire economic situation in ruins could not be justified on grounds of 
“military necessity”.

The report documents Israel’s use of battlefield weapons against a civilian population trapped in Gaza, with no means of escape. Contradicting the Israeli authorities’ claims, Amnesty International affirms that most victims of the attacks were not shielding militants or other military objects. Many were killed in their homes. Children were struck while playing in their bedrooms or on the roof, or near their homes. Paramedics and ambulances were repeatedly attacked while attempting to rescue the wounded or recover the dead.

In addition Amnesty found that most were killed with high-precision weapons, relying on technology allowing those observing to see their targets in detail. The group also condemns the use imprecise weapons, including artillery shells carrying white phosphorus – not previously used in Gaza - which should never be used in densely populated areas.                                                                                                                                                                                     

Furthermore, Donatella Rovera, who headed a field research mission to Gaza and southern Israel during and after the conflict, argued that “Israel’s failure to properly investigate its forces’ conduct in Gaza, including war crimes, and its continuing refusal to cooperate with the UN international independent fact-finding mission headed by Richard Goldstone, is evidence of its intention to avoid public scrutiny and accountability.”

Amnesty also condemned Hamas and other Palestinian organisations for firing rockets into southern Israel, attacks the rights group said they constitute “war crimes and are unacceptable”. “These attacks, using unguided rockets which cannot be directed at specific targets, violated international humanitarian law and cannot be justified under any circumstance,” added Rovera. “Five months on, neither side has shown any inclination to change its practices and abide by international humanitarian law, raising the prospect that civilians will again bear the brunt if fighting resumes.”(ANA)

SL/ANA/02 July 2009

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