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Human Rights Watch: Palestinian terror groups in Gaza violated rules of war

JTA

December 24, 2012 | 12:06 pm

A Hamas militant holds a weapon during a march in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Oct 18. Photo by Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/REUTERS

A Hamas militant holds a weapon during a march in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Oct 18. Photo by Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/REUTERS

Palestinian terror groups in Gaza violated the rules of war by targeting civilians during last month's conflict with Israel, Human Rights Watch said.

In a report issued Monday, the New York-based human rights organization said the Palestinian groups in Gaza violated international humanitarian law by firing some 1,500 rockets at Israel between Nov. 14 and Nov. 21.

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, Human Rights Watch explains in the report. Anyone who commits serious laws-of-war violations intentionally or recklessly is responsible for war crimes, the organization said.

Human Rights Watch also said that its research in Gaza found that armed groups repeatedly fired rockets from densely populated areas near homes, businesses, and a hotel, placing civilians in the vicinity at grave risk from Israeli counter-fire.

Monday's report comes less than a week after the organization released a report charging that Israeli attacks on media facilities in Gaza, and the killing of two Palestinian cameramen, during the same conflict also violated the laws of war.

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