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Amnesty International accuses Israel of war crimes

LONDON: The Israeli military’s destruction of civilian buildings during its Protective Edge offensive this summer amounts to war crimes and must be investigated, human rights monitor Amnesty International said on Tuesday.

The destruction of four multi-story buildings during the last four days of the 50-day operation this summer were in breach of international humanitarian law, the group said.

“All the evidence we have shows this large-scale destruction was carried out deliberately and with no military justification,” said Philip Luther, director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa programme.

“Both the facts on the ground and statements made by Israeli military spokespeople at the time indicate that the attacks were a collective punishment against the people of Gaza and were designed to destroy their already precarious livelihoods.”

“War crimes must be independently and impartially investigated and those responsible should be brought to justice in fair trials.”

There was no immediate reaction to the Amnesty statement from Israeli authorities.

One of the landmark buildings destroyed was the Municipal Commercial Centre in Rafah, which contained a shopping mall, a medical clinic and offices, and provided livelihoods for hundreds of families, the group said.

Israeli authorities had said that one building housed a command centre of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, and that another had “facilities linked to Palestinian militants”, according to the rights group.

However, the military had an obligation to use methods that minimised harm to civilians and their property, and had previously targeted specific apartments without destroying entire buildings, it added.

Amnesty International said that residents of the buildings were warned to leave by the Israeli military, but that they did not have time to salvage important belongings.

Scores of people from nearby buildings were injured, and hundreds lost their homes, according to the rights group.

Amnesty International called for it and other rights groups to be allowed access to Gaza and for a United Nations inquiry into the war to be allowed to investigate.

Israel has refused to cooperate with the commission due to “obsessive hostility against Israel”, according to a foreign ministry spokesman.

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