Netanyahu Denies War Crimes, Vows to 'Expose Truth'
JERUSALEM, Israel -- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to "expose the truth" about last summer's military response to Hamas rocket fire, after receiving reports from a government-appointed Israeli panel and a second from Western military leaders over the weekend.
"We will expose the truth; Israel did not commit war crimes," Netanyahu said in anticipation of the U.N. Human Rights Council report to be released this week. It is expected to accuse Israel of "war crimes" during Operation Cast Lead.
"Anyone who wants to know the truth will read this report and the generals' report," Netanyahu said. "Those who want to continue the baseless accusations can waste their time reading the U.N. report."
The prime minister affirmed the nation's strong support of its soldiers.
"We will continue to defend our soldiers, while they continue to defend us," Netanyahu said.
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs produced a short video on Operation Cast Lead.
Both the Israeli report, based on months of detailed investigations into the 50-day war, and the report by an 11-member panel of senior military and political leaders from abroad concluded that Israeli troops went beyond international war standards to avoid civilian deaths.
"Our overall findings are that during Operation Protective Edge last summer, in the air, on the ground and at sea, Israel not only met a reasonable international standard of observance of the laws of armed conflict, but in many cases significantly exceeded that standard," a statement by the panel read.
"We examined the circumstances that led to the tragic conflict last summer and are in no doubt that this was not a war that Israel wanted. In reality Israel sought to avoid the conflict and exercised great restraint over a period of months before the war when its citizens were targeted by sporadic rocket attacks from Gaza," the panel stated, concluding that Israel had to defend its civilians from "sustained attack from beyond its borders."
The report noted that Hamas attacked from inside residential neighborhoods, schools, hospitals and mosques, frequently using civilians, including children, as human shields.