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Gaza: Palestinian Rockets Unlawfully Targeted Israeli Civilians
Human Rights Watch
24 December 2012
 
Palestinian armed groups in Gaza violated the laws of war during the November 2012 fighting by launching hundreds of rockets toward population centers in Israel.

About 1,500 rockets were fired at Israel between November 14 and 21, the Israel Defense Forces reported. At least 800 struck Israel, including 60 that hit populated areas.

The rocket attacks, including the first from Gaza to strike the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem areas, killed three Israeli civilians, wounded at least 38, several seriously, and destroyed civilian property. Rockets that fell short of their intended targets in Israel apparently killed at least two Palestinians in Gaza and wounded others, Human Rights Watch said.

“Palestinian armed groups made clear in their statements that harming civilians was their aim,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “There is simply no legal justification for launching rockets at populated areas.”
 
Under international humanitarian law, or the laws of war, civilians and civilian structures may not be subject to deliberate attacks or attacks that do not discriminate between civilians and military targets. Anyone who commits serious laws-of-war violations intentionally or recklessly is responsible for war crimes. (…)

Human Rights Watch research in Gaza found that armed 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 Palestinian armed groups that are known to have launched rockets at Israel – Hamas' Izz el-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Islamic Jihad's Saraya al-Quds Brigades, and the Popular Resistance Committee's Nasser Salahaddin Brigades – at times said that their attacks targeted civilians or they sought to justify the attacks by calling them reprisals for Israeli attacks that killed civilians in Gaza.

(…) Statements by armed groups that they deliberately targeted an Israeli city or Israeli civilians are demonstrating their intent to commit war crimes.

Hamas, the ruling authority in Gaza, is obligated to uphold the laws of war and should appropriately punish those responsible for serious violations, Human Rights Watch said.

During the November fighting, Palestinian armed groups launched rockets that reached further into Israel than ever before, with eight rockets reportedly striking or being intercepted in the Tel Aviv area and three near Jerusalem. (…)
 
Under the laws of war, parties to an armed conflict are required to take all feasible precautions to protect civilians under their control from the effects of attacks and not to place military targets in or near densely populated areas. Human Rights Watch has not been able to identify any instances in November in which a Palestinian armed group warned civilians to evacuate an area before a rocket launch.

The rockets launched by Palestinian groups cannot be aimed precisely enough to target military objectives in or near civilian areas, Human Rights Watch said. Under the laws of war, such weapons are therefore indiscriminate when used against targets in population centers. The absence of Israeli military forces in the areas where rockets hit, as well as statements by leaders of Palestinian armed groups that population centers were being targeted, indicate that the armed groups deliberately attacked Israeli civilians and civilian objects. (…)

“A limited military arsenal that relies on largely indiscriminate rockets does not justify a failure to respect the laws of war, which apply to all sides in a conflict whatever their capabilities,” Whitson said. “As the ruling authority in Gaza, Hamas has an obligation to stop unlawful attacks and punish those responsible.” (…)



 

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