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Amnesty calls Israeli airstrikes on homes in Gaza 'war crimes'

Israel's foreign ministry rejected the allegations and questioned why Hamas wasn't accused of terrorism. The report was published on the day of another apparent terror attack along Jerusalem's rail line.

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    Palestinians inspect the damage to the Italian Complex following several late night Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City, Aug. 26, 2014. A leading human rights group has accused Israel of committing war crimes during this summer's war in Gaza. Amnesty International says Israel displayed 'callous indifference' in attacks on family homes in the densely populated coastal strip that in some cases amounted to war crimes.
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Amnesty International has accused Israel of committing war crimes during the war in Gaza this summer, saying its military showed "callous indifference" in its attacks on family homes.

The London-based human rights group,  in a report published Wednesday, suggested violations of international law were committed by both sides during the 50-day conflict, noting that "Palestinian armed groups fired thousands of indiscriminate rockets and mortar rounds into civilian areas of Israel." But its report largely focused on attacks by Israeli forces. 

Israel's foreign ministry swiftly rejected Amnesty's findings. In a statement, it said the group "ignores documented war crimes perpetrated by Hamas."

The Gaza war left more than 2,100 Palestinians dead. While Palestinian and UN officials say the death toll included many civilians, Israel claims that the number of militants killed was much higher and accuses Hamas of using civilians as human shields. Sixty-six soldiers and six civilians were killed on the Israeli side.

"The report does not mention the word terror in relation to Hamas or other armed Palestinian groups, nor mentions tunnels built by Hamas to infiltrate Israel and perpetrate terror attacks," the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

With tensions deepening between Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem, where a Palestinian today rammed a car into a crowd of Israelis at a train station, Amnesty's report is a reminder of the risks of armed conflict in the region. 

In the report, Amnesty details eight cases where family homes were allegedly attacked by Israeli forces without warning, leading to the death of at least 104 civilians, including 62 children. The Israeli military has said that it phoned Gaza residents or dropped lighter missiles to warn of some impending airstrikes, The New York Times reports. However, Amnesty said it found no such notice was given in the eight cases it documented. 

"The repeated, disproportionate attacks on homes indicate that Israel's current military tactics are deeply flawed and fundamentally at odds with international humanitarian law," Philip Luther, director of Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa program, said in a statement.

At least 18,000 homes were destroyed or rendered uninhabitable during the war, the report said.

Israel's operation in Gaza, dubbed Operation Protective Edge, came after increased rocket attacks by Hamas over the summer. Israeli security forces also arrested scores of Hamas activists in the West Bank, following the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers.

In its report, Amnesty called on Israel and the Palestinian authorities to "accede to the Rome statute and grant the ICC [International Criminal Court] the authority to investigate crimes committed in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories."

Meanwhile, Palestinian protesters and Israeli police have clashed almost daily in East Jerusalem in recent months. Israeli police described today's incident at a light-rail station as a terror attack, The Associated Press reports. Haartez reports that one person was killed and at least 13 people were wounded.

The attack echoes another recent incident in which a Palestinian man drove into a train platform and killed a baby girl. It also follows last week's attempted assassination of a controversial right-wing Jewish rabbi at the Temple Mount, a contested holy site in Jerusalem's Old City.

The events in recent weeks have driven tensions in Jerusalem to an intensity not seen in a decade, The Monitor's Christa Case Bryant reported earlier this week.

 
 
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