Israel defends Gaza conduct

2009-04-22 21:03

Tel Aviv - The Israeli army on Wednesday defended its conduct during a devastating war against Hamas in Gaza earlier this year, rejecting claims it had violated international law.

Five investigations carried out by the military found that the army "operated in accordance with international law", the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said in a statement.

The military "maintained a high professional and moral level" while facing an enemy that deliberately fought from within civilian areas, it said.

"The enemy booby-trapped its houses with explosives, fired from the schools attended by its own children and used its own people as human shields while cynically abusing the IDF legal and ethical commitment to avoid injuring uninvolved civilians."

Israel has come under a barrage of criticism in the wake of the 22-day war in Gaza that killed more than 1 000 Palestinians and 13 Israelis, with rights groups and some UN officials saying that the Jewish state could be guilty of war crimes.

Won't co-operate with inquiry

The UN has set up a commission headed by former international prosecutor Richard Goldstone to probe allegations of crimes during the offensive. Israel has said it would not co-operate with the inquiry.

The military statement said that its investigations "revealed a very small number of incidents in which intelligence or operational errors took place during the fighting".

Among these was an attack on a residence in the Zeitun neighbourhood in southern Gaza City in which 21 people were killed when forces mistakenly targeted a home rather than a nearby weapon storage facility, deputy chief of staff Major General Dan Harel told reporters.

"These unfortunate incidents were unavoidable and occur in all combat situations, in particular of the type which Hamas forced on the IDF by choosing to fight from within the civilian population," he said.