Armed Palestinian groups firing rockets at Israeli cities violated the laws of
war during Operation Pillar of Defense, Human Rights Watch said in a report
released on Monday.
“Palestinian armed groups made clear in their
statements that harming civilians was their aim,” said HRW’s Middle East
director Sarah Leah Whitson. “There is simply no legal justification for
launching rockets at populated areas.”
The group also found that Gazan
groups, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committee,
justified targeting civilian centers as reprisal for Israeli strikes, an act
also banned under international law.
Furthermore, such groups “repeatedly
fired rockets from densely populated areas, near homes, businesses and a hotel,
unnecessarily placing civilians in the vicinity at grave risk from Israeli
counter- fire,” the report said.
The detailed report included examples of
rockets being launched from densely populated areas in Gaza, and noted that
groups fired from underground tunnels with hatches for the first
HRW faulted Palestinian armed groups for failing to alert civilians
or urge them to evacuate prior to launching rockets in their vicinity.
the main political power in the Strip, the human rights group said, Hamas was
responsible for reining in the behavior of other groups.
“As the ruling
authority in Gaza, Hamas has an obligation to stop unlawful attacks and punish
those responsible,” Whitson said.
A week earlier, HRW reported that
Israeli attacks on journalists and media facilities during the operation also
violated laws of war, saying that Israel provided no specific information to
justify claims that they were military targets.
“Just because Israel says
a journalist was a fighter or a TV station was a command center does not make it
so,” Whitson said. “Journalists who praise Hamas and TV stations that applaud
attacks on Israel may be propagandists, but that does not make them legitimate
targets under the laws of war.”
Prof. Gerald Steinberg, the president of
HRW watchdog group NGO Monitor, said in response to that report: “This is yet
another example of HRW’s systematic lack of credibility and its biased approach
HRW, the group said, had lost “credibility over a number of
Middle East-related issues.”