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Ahead of UN report, Israel defends operation in Gaza as 'moral war'

Israel has claimed in a report the Israel Defense Force (IDF) operation in Gaza last summer was a moral, defensive war. Israel released its findings ahead of a UN report into possible war crimes by Israel and Hamas.

Israel's report presents the operation in Gaza as an "imperative necessity." 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 250-page report highlights efforts by the IDF to avoid harm to civilians.

The report holds Palestinian militant group Hamas responsible for many of the Palestinian civilian casualties caused by the IDF. It argues that they were unavoidable due to Hamas's tactics of embedding militants among civilian populations, whether in homes, schools, mosques or UN buildings.

The United Nations reported at least 1,483 civilians killed out of a total of 2,205 casualties in last year's conflict. Of these, 521 were

children

and 283 were women. The Israeli report claims 369 casualties were children and 284 were women.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri rejected the report. He said "Israeli war crimes are clear because they were committed in front of live cameras."

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," government representative Ihab Bseiso said.

Israel launched its offensive in Gaza on July 8 last year in response to rocket fire from Hamas and other militant groups.

UNHRC report

The Israeli report comes two weeks before the publication of the findings of an investigation by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) into possible war crimes by Israel and Hamas.

Israel refused to cooperate with the UNHRC report which is expected to serve as the foundation for the Palestinian case against Israel in the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is due to be submitted on 25 June. The Palestinians recently joined the ICC and are pursuing war crimes charges against Israel.

In April, a UN report held Israel responsible for seven incidents in which dozens of civilians were killed inside UN-run schools. But it also condemned Palestinian militants for storing weapons in UN buildings.

Prisoners

Also on Sunday, Gaza's former Hamas premier Ismail Haniya called for the release of prisoners held by Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Khadar Adnan has been imprisoned without trial by Israel and refusing food for about 40 days. Islam Hamad has been held by the Palestinian Authority and is reported to have been on hunger strike for 63 days.

Israeli soldiers seen on video beating an unarmed Palestinian on Friday received punishment Sunday ranging from confinement to base to a verbal rebuke. The incident at Jelazoun refugee camp in the occupied West Bank showed troops striking the Palestinian civilian with their fists and a rifle butt.

Colonel Asher Ben Lulu, was quoted by Israeli media as saying in his judgement of the soldiers in the Jelazoun incident that "the decision to arrest the man was correct, but the manner in which the arrest was carried out was wrong."

jm/bw (AP, AFP)

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