Human Rights Watch slams Hamas rocket fire as war crime
Hamas and other militant groups committed war crimes against Israel by besieging it with rockets during the three-week war in the Gaza Strip earlier this year, Human Rights Watch stated in a report released yesterday.
The 31-page report on Operation Cast Lead focuses on Hamas, after Human Rights Watch and similar groups repeatedly accused Israel of war crimes.
"Hamas forces violated the laws of war both by firing rockets deliberately and indiscriminately at Israeli cities and by launching them from populated areas and endangering Gazan civilians," HRW program director Iain Levine said.
"Hamas rocket attacks targeting Israeli civilians are unlawful and unjustifiable and amount to war crimes," he said.
"As the governing authority in Gaza, Hamas should publicly renounce rocket attacks on Israeli civilian centers and punish those responsible, including members of its own armed wing," Levine said.
According to the report, Hamas both fired rockets and allowed militants to do the same, in attacks that killed three Israeli civilians. The offensive, launched by Israel in late December, was aimed at stopping years of daily Palestinian rocket fire at Israeli communities.
Bill Van Esveld of Human Rights Watch said the intent of armed groups to harm civilians, and not the number of people they killed, determined whether they committed war crimes.
Van Esveld said the Islamic militant group, which is committed to Israel's destruction, violated international war rules by allowing fighters to launch rockets that either "deliberately or indiscriminately" targeted civilian areas. Hamas also violated rules of war by allowing militants to fire from populated Gaza areas, endangering the lives of civilians by making them vulnerable to return Israeli fire, he said.
Van Esveld said in the specific cases where three Israeli civilians were killed by rocket fire there was "strong evidence" Hamas militants committed war crimes.
While the group also points to evidence of war crimes committed by Israel, it emphasizes that "violations by one party to a conflict never justify violations by the other."
More than 1,100 Palestinians were killed during the offensive. Palestinians said most were civilians, but Israel has disputed that.