A new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) – in which it accuses Israel of committing war crimes during its recently-ended military onslaught on the Gaza Strip – has served to “expose Israel’s lies,” according to a Thursday statement by Palestinian resistance group Hamas.
“The [HRW] report reveals that international organizations have not fallen for Israel’s deception,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.
The New York-based rights watchdog said in a report issued Thursday that Israel had committed war crimes by targeting U.N.-run schools that Palestinian civilians had used as bomb shelters during the 51-day offensive.
The report, based on investigations carried out by HRW into Israeli attacks on three U.N.-run schools, found that the “unlawful attacks” – which, it said, had been “carried out willfully” – could be classified as war crimes.
The report also said its investigations had revealed no evidence “that the three schools… were being used for military purposes” by Palestinian resistance fighters – a claim by which Israel has attempted to justify the attacks that killed at least 45 Palestinians, including 17 children.
HRW said its investigation had not shown any evidence that Palestinian militants had stored missiles inside closed U.N. schools in Gaza – contradicting the U.N.’s assertions at the time.
“The HRW investigation exposed Israel’s lies that the resistance was using schools as military sites,” Abu Zuhri said.
Some 500 Palestinians were also injured when Israel struck the three U.N. schools, according to Palestinian Health Ministry figures.
At least 2,152 Palestinians were killed and nearly 11,000 injured – the vast majority of them civilians – during 51 days of fierce Israeli bombardment of the coastal territory, which ended late last month.
The onslaught also partially or completely destroyed thousands of residential structures across the blockaded coastal enclave.
The offensive, launched with the stated aim of halting rocket fire from Gaza, finally ended with the announcement on August 26 of an open-ended cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian resistance factions.
According to Israeli figures, 67 Israeli soldiers and five civilians were killed over the course of the operation – the highest military death toll suffered by Israel since it lost 119 troops in its 33-day war with Hezbollah in 2006.