The Israeli armed forces, in their three-week war in Gaza earlier this year, deliberately targeted civilians using disproportionate force in actions which amount to international war crimes, a United Nations report has concluded.

Judge Richard Goldstone’s grim findings on the Gaza conflict conclude that “actions amounting to war crimes and possibly, in some respects, crimes against humanity were committed by the Israel Defence Force.”

More than 1,400 Palestinians — one-third of them were women and children — were killed in the war. The Israeli death toll was 13. Justice Goldstone, who hails from South Africa, had earlier served as chief prosecutor at international courts for Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

The investigation concluded that the deliberate targeting of civilians by the Israeli forces was the result of the “Dahiya doctrine” which emerged during the Lebanon war of 2006. It involved “application of disproportionate force and the causing of great damage and destruction to civilian property and infrastructure, and suffering to civilian populations.”

Consistent with this doctrine, the report cites several instances when the Israeli forces endangered the lives of civilians by drawing them into combat situations. On January 15, the Israelis deliberately attacked with phosphorus ammunition and high explosives a U.N. compound sheltering 600-700 civilians.

Phosphorous shells also struck the Al Quds hospital in Gaza City and an adjacent ambulance depot. The Israeli forces were “systematically reckless” in determining the use of white phosphorous explosives in built-up areas. The investigation did not find any evidence to support allegations that Palestinian groups used hospital facilities to conceal military activities.

The report points to four instances when Palestinian civilians were used as human shields. Israeli forces coerced blindfolded and handcuffed Palestinian civilian men to take part in house searches during military operations. Civilians, including women and children under Israeli detention, were subjected to “intimidation and terror.”

Israeli armed forces destroyed private residential houses, water wells, water tanks, agricultural land and greenhouses with the “specific purpose” of depriving the Gaza population of means of sustenance, an indication of an “intention to inflict collective punishment.”

The investigation inferred that the series of acts to deprive the Palestinians of their basic rights “could amount to persecution, a crime against humanity.” Amid detailed recordings of the Israeli violations, the report pointed to evidence which showed “those Palestinian armed groups committed war crimes, as well as possibly crimes against humanity,” by launching rockets into southern Israel.

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