Three Guardian films based on a month-long investigation, add weight to calls this week for a full inquiry into the events surrounding Operation Cast Lead, which was aimed at Hamas but left about 1,400 Palestinians dead, including up to 300 children.
The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) refused to respond directly to the allegations made against its troops, but issued statements denying the charges, and insisted international law had been observed.
The Guardian's investigation follows soldiers' evidence published in the Israeli press about the killing of Palestinian civilians and complaints by colleagues involved in the military operation that the rules of engagement were too lax.
Amnesty International has said Hamas should be investigated for executing at least two dozen Palestinian men in an apparent bout of score-settling with rivals and alleged collaborators while Operation Cast Lead was under way.
Human rights groups say the vast majority of offences were committed by Israel, and that the Gaza offensive was a disproportionate response to Hamas rocket attacks. Since 2002, there have been 21 Israeli deaths from Hamas rockets fired from Gaza and during Operation Cast Lead there were three Israeli civilian deaths, six Israeli soldiers killed by Palestinian fire and four killed by friendly fire.
"Only an investigation mandated by the UN security council can ensure Israel's co-operation and it's the only body that can secure some kind of prosecution," said Amnesty's Donatella Rovera, who spent two weeks in Gaza investigating war crimes allegations. "Without a proper investigation there is no deterrent. The message remains the same: 'It's OK to do these things – there won't be any real consequences.'"
Some of the most dramatic testimony gathered by the Guardian came from three teenage brothers in the al-Attar family. The trio describe how they were taken from their home at gunpoint, made to kneel in front of tanks to deter Hamas fighters from firing at them and sent by Israeli soldiers into Palestinian houses to clear them.
"They would make us go first so if any fighters shot at them the bullets would hit us not them," 14-year-old Al'a al-Attar said....
Read the rest and view the three videotapes of testimony at the link.