Human Rights Watch on Thursday said the thousands of rockets fired by the Palestinian militant group Hamas during the 11-day war against Israel “violated the laws of war and amount to war crimes.”
The New York-based rights group investigated Hamas rocket attacks that killed 12 civilians in Israel, Hy”d, as well as a misfired rocket that killed seven Palestinians inside the Gaza Strip.
HRW has repeatedly come under fire by Israel and its supporters over reports accusing Israel of war crimes against the Palestinians as well as apartheid and persecution. But in this report it agreed with most legal experts — and Israel itself — that indiscriminate rocket fire from Palestinian population centers directed at civilian areas is a violation of international law.
“Palestinian armed groups during the May fighting flagrantly violated the laws-of-war prohibition on indiscriminate attacks by launching thousands of unguided rockets towards Israeli cities,” Human Rights Watch acting Middle East and North Africa Director Eric Goldstein said in a statement.
Last month the group issued a report that accused the IDF of carrying out attacks during the conflict that “apparently amount to war crimes” after investigating three Israeli airstrikes that it said killed 62 Palestinian civilians.
Hamas launched more than 4,300 rockets and mortar rounds at Israel, including barrages directed at the country’s major population centers around Tel Aviv and Yerushalayim.
“The rockets and mortars that Palestinian armed groups fired lack guidance systems and are prone to misfire, making them extremely inaccurate and thus inherently indiscriminate when directed toward areas with civilians,” the report said. “Launching such rockets to attack civilian areas is a war crime.”
“Munitions apparently directed toward Israel that misfired and fell short killed and injured an undetermined number of Palestinians in Gaza,” the report said, adding that Hamas has not “provided information about how many rockets misfired or how many people died as a result in Gaza and there are no precise independent estimates.”
It concluded that a Hamas rocket fired on May 10 killed seven people, including two children, in the Gaza Strip city of Jabaliya.
The IDF claimed at least one other incident in Beit Hanoun on May 10, in which eight Palestinian civilians died in an explosion, was the result of a misfired Hamas rocket exploding inside the Gaza Strip. The military said the incident took place before it began operating in the area. Human Rights Watch said in its earlier report that the explosion appeared to have been caused by an Israeli bomb.
Early this year, HRW accused Israel of the international crimes of apartheid and persecution because of discriminatory polices toward Palestinians, both inside Israel as well as in Yehudah, Shomron and the Gaza Strip. Israel rejected the accusations and accused the group of being biased against it.
HRW has called on the ICC to include Palestinian rocket attacks and Israeli airstrikes during the most recent Gaza war in its ongoing investigation into possible war crimes by Israel and Palestinian terrorists.
Israel does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction and says it is capable of investigating any possible wrongdoing by its forces. It says the ICC probe is unfair and politically motivated.
Hamas has said that its rocket attacks against Israel stem from its “legitimate right to resist the occupation,” but did not have an immediate response to Thursday’s HRW report.