The massive offensive Israel launched on December 27 in response to ongoing rocket fire from the territory "brought conditions to the brink of human catastrophe," the London-based group said in its annual report.
The 22-day war killed more than 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis and left large swathes of Gaza in ruins and earned Israel widespread condemnation and charges of possible war crimes from rights groups.
Amnesty also criticized the blockade Israel imposed on Gaza in June 2007 after Hamas, a group pledged to the destruction of the Jewish state, seized power in Gaza.
The blockade "exacerbated an already dire humanitarian situation, health and sanitation problems, poverty and malnutrition for the 1.5 million residents."
"Seriously ill patients in need of medical care not available in Gaza and hundreds of students and workers wishing to study or travel to jobs abroad were among those trapped in Gaza by the blockade."
One, Mohammed Abu Amro, a 58-year-old cancer patient, died in October after being denied a permit to leave on "security grounds." A week later, Israel granted the permission.
Before the war, some 450 Palestinians were killed and thousands of others wounded by Israeli forces in Gaza, most of them during the first half of the year.
Meanwhile, Amnesty pointed out that by year-end, some 8,000 Palestinians remained imprisoned by Israel. These included 300 children and 550 people held without charge or trial under so-called administrative detention, including some held up to six years in this way.
Killed without charge or trial
On the Palestinian side, Amnesty took to task both Gaza's Hamas rulers and Palestinian Authority forces in the Israeli-occupied West Bank for arbitrary detentions, torture and suppression of freedom of speech.
"Both the PA security forces in the West Bank and Hamas security forces and militias in Gaza arbitrarily detained hundreds of members or sympathizers of rival factions without charge or trial and often tortured and otherwise ill-treated detainees," the report said.
After Israel launched its offensive, Hamas forces abducted political opponents and people alleged to have collaborated with Israel, and "some were summarily killed, others beaten or shot in the legs."
A total of 23 Israeli civilians were killed in both territories in 2008 – seven by militants from Gaza and 16 others in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
NGO Monitor: Amnesty abusing human rights
On Tuesday, Jerusalem-based research organization NGO Monitor released its review of Amnesty International’s 2008 activities. According to the research, although Amnesty International has a stated policy of political neutrality, and universal morality, its activities on Israeli and Palestinian issues are highly biased and lack credibility.
Throughout 2008, the review said, Amnesty disproportionately focused on Israel’s Gaza policy, while little attention was paid to Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli civilians.
According to NGO Monitor, "This trend culminated in Amnesty’s obsessive, distorted and disproportionate condemnations of Israel over the recent Gaza conflict. In the three weeks of combat, Amnesty International headquarters issued over 20 statements and its branches tens more, primarily critical of Israel."
NGO Monitor’s Executive Director, Professor Gerald Steinberg said, “Amnesty International’s activities in the Middle East are totally divorced from reality, and constitute a continued attack on the moral foundation of human rights. The world’s most prominent human rights organization continues to abuse this position to join the ideological campaign that seeks to single out Israel for condemnation, promote the Palestinian narrative, and erase the context of mass terror and aggression by Hamas.
By any measure, Amnesty consistently goes far beyond legitimate criticism, and has made a mockery of human rights and international law. Many of the claims and campaigns in Amnesty's publications are ludicrous, including the references to the massive construction of tunnels from Egypt to Gaza as being primarily used for food and fuel. As a result, at least in the Middle East, Amnesty has become the leading anti-human rights organization."