rockets from Lebanon 298.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Under criticism for its lack of objectivity, the London-based Amnesty International announced Wednesday that Hizbullah's firing of thousands of rockets into Israel amounted to "war crimes."
The findings, which appear in a new 15-page report, come three weeks after the human rights group issued a previous report which called Israeli strikes "war crimes," but failed to mention Hizbullah's rocket attacks.
"During the recent 34-day war between Hizbullah and Israel in which both sides committed serious violations of international humanitarian law, Hizbullah's rocket attacks on northern Israel amounted to deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian objects, as well as indiscriminate attacks, both war crimes under international law," the report states.
"Its attacks also violated other rules of international humanitarian law, including the prohibition on reprisal attacks on the civilian population."
Hizbullah fired nearly 4,000 rockets into northern Israel during the war, killing 43 civilians, including four who died of heart attacks. The victims, among them seven children, included Jewish and Arab Israelis.
Throughout the conflict, hundreds of thousands of Israeli civilians remained in the North, many seeking safety in bomb shelters for much of the time. About a half a million Israelis fled their homes and were forced to seek refuge elsewhere.
Despite Nasrallah's justification for the attacks - namely, that Hizbullah was firing rockets in retaliation for Israeli attacks on its cities - the Amnesty report declared that this in no way absolved the group of blame for its actions.
"The fact that Israel in its attacks in Lebanon also committed violations of international humanitarian law amounting to war crimes, including indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks, is not an acceptable justification for Hizbullah violating the rules of war, whether as a deterrent or as a means of retaliation or retribution," it said.
The report called for "a comprehensive, independent and impartial inquiry to be conducted by the UN into violations of international humanitarian law by both sides in the conflict,"
It added that "the inquiry should examine in particular the impact of this conflict on the civilian population, and should be undertaken with a view to holding individuals responsible for crimes under international law and ensuring that full reparation is provided to the victims."
Among the facts noted in the report were that "almost a third of Israel's population... were within range of the rockets launched from south Lebanon," and that Hizbullah used rocket warheads packed with metal ball bearings, meant to cause maximum harm.
The report also mentioned the emotional trauma caused to Israeli children by Hizbullah's constant shelling, citing comments by Oren Yirmiyahu, coordinator of the youth community centre of Kol Nidrei in Kiryat Shmona.
"For young children, under six for instance, the experience was especially traumatic, as this was the first time they experienced a massive rocket attack," Yirmiyahu said.
Although they were being professionally treated, he said, "they exhibit symptoms of anxiety - lack of sleep, sensitivity to noise, and crying out of fear."