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Rights group accuses Israel soldiers of killing unarmed civilians in Gaza conflict

[JURIST] Israeli soldiers killed 11 white flag-waving Palestinian civilians in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], which left more than 1,000 civilians and combatants dead in December 2008 and January 2009, according to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] report [text, PDF; press release] released Thursday. According to the report, the unarmed victims were waving white flags to indicate they were not combatants and should not have been attacked under the laws of war. The report also suggests that Israeli soldiers may have failed to distinguish between civilians and combatants. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) [official website] said HRW’s report was based on unreliable witnesses [press release]. HRW called on Israel’s military to investigate the attacks.

Last month, IDF announced [JURIST report] they were conducting criminal investigations into alleged intentional misconduct by Israeli soldiers during December and January's fighting in the Gaza strip. IDF said it was investigating [report, PDF] 13 allegations against IDF personnel, including the use of civilians as human shields. Israel and the US condemned [DOS briefing] a February report [text, PDF; JURIST report] that criticized Israel for failing to take adequate precautions to distinguish between civilians and combatants. In April, an internal Israeli military investigation found that war crimes had not been committed [JURIST report] in the offensive.

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