Israel’s own report into its actions in Gaza last year has found that the IDF acted “legitimately” and “proportionately” in the 50-day war, which killed over 2,200 people.
It comes just days after another Israeli report exonerated soldiers who killed four young boys playing on a Gaza beach, in an incident filmed by French media.
The 270-page report on Operation Protective Edge was released on Sunday, just hours before the expected release of a report by the United Nations Human Rights Council, which was expected to be critical.
Pre-empting U.N. condemnation, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “Anyone who wants to continue with an automatic indictment against Israel, which is baseless, can waste his time reading the U.N. commission report.”
Netanyahu said the Israeli report presented “the true picture” of what happened, but analysts in Israel and beyond dismissed it was “ineffective PR,” saying it focuses almost exclusively on the actions of militants, not the IDF.
Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler at the Israel Democracy Institute said: “The question is who is trying to feed the public discourse and for what mission,” adding that it was a “new tactic” of giving “perhaps a one-sided report of its own”.
There have been over a dozen reports on last year’s hostilities. Among the more critical have been those by non-governmental organisations like Amnesty International, which accused the IDF of “war crimes and human rights violations”.
Israeli military officials say Hamas “intentionally and systematically used strategies designed to maximize harm to civilian life and property” and that Israel “made efforts, including beyond its legal obligations, to mitigate the risk of harm to civilians”.
Another group of senior military and diplomatic personnel, chaired by Gen. Klaus Naumann of Germany, also concluded that Israel “not only met a reasonable international standard of observance of the laws of armed conflict, but in many cases significantly exceeded that standard”.
Of the 2,125 Palestinians killed, Israel says that only 761 were “uninvolved civilians,” but the U.N. puts that figure at 1,483.
A Hamas spokesman said the report “has no value and will not change the facts because the Israeli occupation crimes took place in front of the world’s cameras”.
Canadian jurist William Schabas, who resigned from his role as head of the UN enquiry after it emerged that he advised the PLO in 2012, dismissed Israel’s suggestion that Gaza’s militants were the only party at fault.
“It would be a very unusual war if only one side violated the laws of war and the other behaved perfectly,” he said. “The likelihood is both sides committed violations.”
Asked about Israel’s lack of cooperation with the U.N. enquiry, Schabas said Israel only cooperates “when it suits it”. He added: “That’s unfortunate. It’s not in Israel’s best interests to boycott commissions of inquiry.”