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Friday, March 6, 2009

Israeli 'wanton destruction' turns heads

Fri, 06 Mar 2009 19:15:26 GMT | PressTV

Donatella Rovera (L), the Amnesty International researcher on Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories
Amnesty International has accused the Israeli army of engaging in "wanton destruction" of Palestinian homes during its Gaza offensive.

The head of the Amnesty's fact-finding mission to the West Bank and Gaza says the use of mines to destroy homes contradicts Tel Aviv claims that the Israeli army acted in accordance with international law during the three-week war on Gaza.

The Israeli army emphasizes that Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and its infrastructure were the target of Operation Cast Lead, and not the civilian population in Gaza, said Donatella Rovera, who argued the claim saying the methods used by Israeli forces raise concerns about war crimes.

Israeli troops had to leave their vehicles to plant the mines, indicating that they faced no danger and that there was no military or operational justification, she told the BBC news website.

The BBC report also cites Breaking the Silence -- an Israeli NGO that gathers and circulates the testimonies of Israeli soldiers on incidents of unnecessary violence and oppression -- saying that its findings from the Gaza war suggested many demolitions had been carried out when there was no immediate threat.

"From the testimonies that we've gathered, lots of demolitions -- buildings demolished either by bulldozers or explosives -- were done after the area was under Israeli control," said Yehuda Shaul, one of the group's members.

A Palestinian girl carries her sister in front of a destroyed house in northern Gaza Strip
On December 27, Israel started a huge military operation on the densely-populated coastal sliver, which saw the death of over 1,330 Palestinians and left thousands of buildings, civilian houses and mosques reduced to debris.

Rovera expressed Amnesty's deep concern over the "large scale destruction of homes and other civilian properties" during the conflict. "The destruction was, in our view, and according to our findings, wanton destruction - it could not be justified on military grounds," she said.

The Amnesty official said her team found fragments of anti-tank mines in and around destroyed properties. This together with remains of houses, collapsed in on themselves -- as if blown up from below, rather than from above as in an air strike -- suggested that Israeli troops had left their armored vehicles to plant them and set up the detonators, she said.

"Unless those operating on the ground felt not just 100 percent but 200 percent secure -- that the places were not booby trapped, that they wouldn't come under fire -- they could not have got out of the vehicles," she said, concluding that the use of the method cut short claims about the kind of danger that might have made it lawful to destroy some of those properties.

"Wanton destruction on a large scale would qualify as a war crime," she said.

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