JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israel denounced the United Nations rights council on Monday as biased after a United Nations report found that both Israel and Palestinian militants may have committed war crimes during last year's Gaza war.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted on Monday that Israel “does not commit war crimes”. “Israel defends itself against a terror organisation which calls for its destruction and that itself carries out war crimes,” Mr Netanyahu said in a statement, referring to Islamist movement Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.
"It is well known that the entire process that led to the production of this report was politically motivated and morally flawed from the outset," a Foreign Ministry statement said. "This report was commissioned by a notoriously biased institution," it added, referring to the UN Human Rights Council, which commissioned the report.
Hamas saluted the “condemnation” of Israel in the report. “Hamas welcomes the report’s condemnation of the Zionist occupier for its war crimes during the last war against Gaza,” said Mr Fawzi Barhum, a spokesman for the Islamist movement that rules the Gaza Strip.
The widely anticipated Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict report decried the "unprecedented" devastation and human suffering during the war, announcing it had gathered "substantial information" and "credible allegations" that both sides had committed war crimes during the conflict, which killed more than 2,140 Palestinians, most of them civilians, and 73 people on the Israeli side, mostly soldiers.
"The extent of the devastation and human suffering in Gaza was unprecedented and will impact generations to come," the chair of the commission, New York judge Mary McGowan Davis, said in a statement.
The report decried the "huge firepower" used in Gaza, with Israel launching more than 6,000 airstrikes and firing 50,000 artillery shells during the 51-day operation.
A third of the civilians killed were children.
Palestinian armed groups meanwhile fired 4,881 rockets and 1,753 mortars towards Israel, killing six civilians and injuring at least 1,600 others.
The report pointed out that hundreds of Palestinian civilians had been killed in their own homes, especially women and children, providing heart-wrenching testimony from a member of the Al Najjar family who lost 19 of his relatives in an attack in Khan Younis on July 26.
"We all died that day, even those who survived," he said.
According to the report, at least 142 families lost three or more members in an attack on residential buildings during last summer's war, resulting in 742 deaths.
"The fact that Israel did not revise its practice of air-strikes, even after their dire effects on civilians became apparent, raises questions of whether this was part of a broader policy which was at least tacitly approved at the highest level of government," the commission said in a statement.
The commission also voiced concern that a sense of "impunity prevails across the board for violations... allegedly committed by Israeli forces, whether it be in the context of active hostilities in Gaza or killings, torture and ill-treatment in the West Bank".
The investigators urged Israel to "break with its recent lamentable track record in holding wrongdoers accountable".
The report also decried the "indiscriminate" firing of thousands of rockets and mortars at Israel, which it said appeared to be have been intended to "spread terror" among Israeli civilians.
The report had been scheduled to be published during the Human Rights Council's main annual session in March, but the investigators obtained a delay after the head of the team quit under Israeli pressure.
Israel was not satisfied, calling for the entire inquiry to be shelved, insisting the commission and the Human Rights Council that created it are inherently biased against the Jewish state.