Amnesty International places blame on both sides in Gaza conflict
Amnesty International, a London-based human rights group, released a report today accusing Israel of "wanton destruction" and the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas of "war crimes," each committed during the 22 violent days last December in the Gaza Strip.
But both Israel and Hamas deny the claims and are shouting, yet again, about why the other side didn't receive more of a rebuke for the atrocities committed.
Said Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, "Things presented as facts are untrue and have no connection to reality." He was most likely referring to the high death toll the report cited and the judgment that Israel's attacks could not "be justified on grounds of military necessity."
On the other side, Hamas rejected the report because it did not chastise the Israeli military enough for the actions it committed against Palestine.
The report, as with the United Nations' inquiry that is currently gathering evidence on the conflict, sought to dispel the myths and rumors that have added to already high tensions in the region, particularly the assertion that Hamas used Palestinian civilians as human shields (a claim the report said had no basis in fact). Instead, the report said Israeli soldiers effectively turned Palestinians into human shields by forcing them to stay in the homes that soldiers used as makeshift military bases.
As with any dispute between Palestinians and Israelis, there was no admission of shared fault, no statement that "we both committed war crimes, killed civilians and launched rockets across borders." That seems hard to contest, yet each side tried its best to do so -- as it always does. A microcosm of the larger conflict, the reactions to the report show why no progress is being made, and why this event will leave a scar on the relationship for years to come.
Photo: Palestinian children play in front of their ruined houses, hit during Israel's 22-day offensive over Gaza, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip today. Credit: Said Khatib / AFP / Getty Images