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HRW: Hamas rockets from Gaza violated laws of war
By JPOST.COM STAFF
24/12/2012
Report: Hamas broke int'l law in Gaza operation by firing rockets from densely populated areas to civilian populations in Israel.
 
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 time.



HRW faulted Palestinian armed groups for failing to alert civilians or urge them to evacuate prior to launching rockets in their vicinity.

As 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 to Israel.”

HRW, the group said, had lost “credibility over a number of Middle East-related issues.”
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