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Israeli army admits 'isolated' mistakes in Gaza

At a briefing Wednesday, a top officer described the findings of an internal inquiry, insisting Israel acted in accord with international law.

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"The doctrine of using extreme armed force was a doctrine set from above," says Sarit Michaeli, the spokeswoman of the human rights watchdog B'tselem. She adds that the military inquiry "is not the correct forum to conduct this investigation" into accountability.

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Inquiries at home and abroad

Israel so far has refused to cooperate with a UN fact-finding team to investigate the war on both sides of the Israel-Gaza divide.

The Army denied accusations that it illegally used artillery shells with the incendiary white phosphorous agent against civilian areas. While saying it launched white phosphorous shells into open areas to target its fire, the military also acknowledged using smoke bombs that scattered fragments with small amounts of phosphorous over civilian areas. The munitions were used to obscure forces and didn't endanger civilians.

"I cannot buy it after being on the receiving end," said Eyad Sarraj, the director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program. "I felt it. I sniffed the white phosphorous in my house. My children almost suffocated by it."

Human rights and international news groups have documented medical experts who assert that numerous Gazans were injured by white phosphorous burns.

During the war, accusations that Israel used excessive force against third-party civilians in Gaza instead of Hamas militants helped erode the initial understanding internationally of Israel's opening response to continued rocket fire from the Gaza Strip at southern Israeli towns and cities.

Last month, Israel's military prosecutor opened and then closed an inquiry into the testimony of several war veterans who claimed that soldiers had fired indiscriminately on noncombatants. The stories were dismissed by the Army as "hearsay."

The Army says it is investigating additional allegations of misconduct, but it's unclear whether the military prosecutor will open its own inquiry or even press charges.

Israel said it destroyed 636 residential buildings over the course of the war. Palestinians say about 4,000 structures were destroyed and some $2 billion in damage was caused.

The Army also reiterated that about 1,100 Gazans were killed, about 70 percent of whom were identified as Hamas operatives. Palestinians say the number was about 1,400 and that only 30 percent of the casualties were militants.

Israel also was accused of targeting UN installations and humanitarian workers, though some of those claims were dropped.

Israel still is grappling with the international fallout from the war. The Guardian newspaper reported Wednesday that Britain will review all weapons shipments to Israel following the war.

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