Israel has failed to show it will conduct an impartial investigation of a report that it committed war crimes during its Gaza offensive last winter, an international human rights group said Sunday.
The UN General Assembly in November called on Israel and Palestinian armed groups to investigate alleged war crimes detailed in a UN report by the respected former international war crimes prosecutor Richard Goldstone.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch said inquiries by Israel's military have largely focused on possible wrongdoing by individual soldiers without looking into high-level decisions that led to large numbers of civilian casualties, such as artillery fire into populated areas.
Israeli investigators missed an important piece of evidence in one of the most contested incidents of the war, in which Gaza's only flour mill was severely damaged by Israeli fire, said Human Rights Watch, which discussed the ongoing investigations with Israeli military lawyers last week.
"Israel claims it is conducting credible and impartial investigations, but it has so far failed to make that case," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director for Human Rights Watch.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has so far given no indication that he plans to authorize such an independent investigation.
"An independent investigation is crucial to understand why so many civilians died and to bring justice for the victims of unlawful attacks."
UN chief Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday that he had not yet determined whether both sides had adequately probed the accusations.
Last Friday, the UN chief received a 46-page report from Israel in which it denied violating international law.
Israel admitted it used banned weapons in a response to a UN report over artillery shelling in a heavily populated area that hit a United Nations compound during the offensive.
The military has disciplined "two high-ranking officers" for approving the use of white phosphorous shells during the Gaza offensive last year.
However, Human rights groups accuse Israel of being a systematic, random and wide-ranging use of the chemical.
Human Rights Watch official, said an independent investigation should look into the high-level decisions that led to civilian casualties, such as firing heavy artillery and white phosphorus shells in populated areas.
"For those decisions and policies, senior military and political decision-makers should be held responsible," he said.
Human Rights Watch said U.N. mine defusal experts visited the mill two days after the strike and found the front half of a 500-pound aircraft bomb on the upper floor. Human Rights Watch also released a video, taken by the mill's owner, and said it appears to show the remains of an aerial bomb.
Human Rights Watch said it was still reviewing the Hamas response.
Hamas said three Israeli civilians killed in rocket attacks by its members during Israel's Gaza offensive last year were hit by mistake.
The Goldstone report criticizes hasrhly Israel in last year's Dec. 27-Jan. 18 conflict, which killed up to 1,434 Palestinians, a third of them were children. 13 Israelis, including the three civilians in question died in the Israeli war in Gaza.