2014 Gaza offensive was ‘unfortunate yet lawful’ – Israel ahead of UN probe results

Israel has released a report that argues Operation Protective Edge against Hamas Gaza during the summer of 2014 was lawful, a move aimed at pre-empting the findings of the UN war crimes investigation into the war, which is due to be released this week.

The 277-page document ordered by the Foreign Ministry was published on Sunday and cites Israel's internal probes and statements from Western leaders backing the country’s right to self-defense.

At the same time, the inquiry by the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) has already been dismissed by Benjamin Netanyahu as biased. A previous report by the HRC into Israel’s 2008-2009 Gaza offensive accused Israel of war crimes, something that many critics denounced them for in last year’s offensive.

Operation Protective Edge was launched last July after a spike in cross-border rocket attacks by Hamas. The Israeli response was 50 days of intense shelling, airstrikes and attacks by ground troops in one of the most densely populated enclaves in the world, which killed more than 2,256 Palestinians, including 1,563 civilians many of whom were children, an earlier UN report said in March.

In comparison, 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians died.

READ MORE: Israeli soldiers ‘deliberately fired’ at civilians during Gaza war – NGO

But the Israeli government claimed the UN figures are lies, adding that in-fact non-combatant Palestinians made up just 36 percent of the dead and that many militants were misidentified as civilians.

"Harm to the civilian population also occurred as the result of unfortunate – yet lawful – incidental effects of legitimate military action in the vicinity of civilians and their surroundings, and as a result of the inescapable constraint of commanders not being infallible, intelligence not being perfect and technological systems sometimes failing," the Israeli document said.

Israel has often accused Hamas of hiding behind civilians in Gaza’s crowded streets.

"Whoever wants to continue with baseless blaming of the State of Israel, let them waste time reading the report by the UN commission. We, for our part, will continue protecting our soldiers. They will continue protecting us," said Netanyahu.

Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for Hamas, said the Israeli report was worthless.

"Israeli war crimes are clear because they were committed in front of live cameras,” he said.

The Palestinians also rejected Israel’s claims that civilians were not targeted and in-fact made up the majority of casualties.

“Israel’s decision to deny having targeted civilians in Gaza is the logical extension of what it did in the Gaza Strip,” Ihab Bseiso, a spokesman for the Palestinian government in Ramallah, told AFP.

READ MORE: ICC prosecutor rejects Israel’s fears of bias in war crimes investigation

In a separate development, the Israeli cabinet approved a law on Sunday that will allow the force-feeding of Palestinian prisoners who are on hunger strike.

Force-feeding is opposed by Israel’s Medical Association, which views it as a form of torture and a practice that is medically risky. They have urged Israeli prison doctors not to ignore it if the law becomes standard practice.

Israel is concerned that hunger strikes by Palestinians could result in deaths and set off waves of protests in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.