Israeli air strikes on four multi-storey buildings towards the end of its 50-day military assault on Gaza this summer amounted to war crimes, rights group Amnesty International has said.
A new report released by the London-based rights organisation on Tuesday claimed that the attacks on the civilian buildings on the last four days of the war were deliberate.
The group called for an independent probe in these four cases.
“All the evidence we have shows this large-scale destruction was carried out deliberately and with no military justification,” said Philip Luther, director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.
“Both the facts on the ground and statements made by Israeli military spokespeople at the time indicate that the attacks were a collective punishment against the people of Gaza and were designed to destroy their already precarious livelihoods.”
The group also said that although the Israeli military had warned residents of the buildings to leave before they were destroyed, a number of people from nearby buildings were injured.
Israel used controversial techniques, including distributing leaflets and “roof-knocking” – where a small missile strikes the roof of a building as a warning for the residents to leave – before air strikes level the building.
However, Haaretz newspaper quoted the Israeli embassy in London as saying that Amnesty’s latest report was a “decontextualised description of events”.
“The report offers a decontextualised description of events, while relying heavily on testimonies gathered by unnamed local ‘fieldworkers,’ who are not identified and whose credibility is never questioned,” the statement from the embassy said.
Jerusalem has refused to cooperate with a United Nations inquiry into possible war crimes during the conflict, accusing it of bias.
About 2,200 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in the war between Israel and Hamas fighters, which ended on August 26. On the Israeli side 73 people were killed, 67 of them soldiers.
One of the landmark buildings destroyed was the Municipal Commercial Centre in Rafah, which contained a shopping mall, a medical clinic and offices, and provided livelihoods for hundreds of families, the Amnesty International report said.
Israeli authorities had said that one building housed a command centre of the Palestinian group Hamas, and that another had “facilities linked to Palestinian militants”, according to the report.