Amnesty International has published a damning report on Hamas’s conduct during last summer’s Gaza war, accusing it and other Palestinian armed groups of committing “war crimes” by firing rockets and mortars into Israel.
The report, released today, is the first by the human rights group to target Hamas after a series of publications accusing Israel of waging attacks that constituted war crimes.
Six civilians were killed in Israel by rocket and mortar attacks from Hamas-controlled Gaza during the 50-day conflict in which 66 Israeli soldiers also died. Some 2,250 Palestinians were killed, at least 1,585 of them civilians, according to the United Nations.
Both sides must be held accountable, Amnesty says. “The violations by Palestinian groups, some of which are war crimes, do not in any way justify violations by Israeli forces; nor do Israeli violations justify those of Palestinian armed groups,” the report says.
The report argues that, because of their inaccuracy, the very use of mortars constitutes a war crime. “Even in the hands of a highly experienced operator, a mortar round can never be accurate enough to hit a specific target,” it says. Even if aimed at military targets within civilian concentrations, mortar launches amount to “indiscriminate attacks” and when these kill civilians they are “war crimes”, Amnesty says. Rockets used by Palestinian armed groups were similarly unguided. “They are inherently indiscriminate and using them is likely to injure and kill civilians,” the report said. According to UN statistics, armed groups fired 4,881 rockets and 1,753 mortars at Israel during the war.
Amnesty noted that Hamas’s armed wing had said it was deliberately targeting civilians in statements specifying details of each attack.
Amnesty said the practices of Palestinian armed groups endangered Palestinians in Gaza as well. In one case it said 13 Palstinian civilians were killed in al-Shati refugee camp on 28 July by a rocket fired from within the Gaza Strip. Amnesty called on Palestinian authorities to ensure the cases documented in the report are investigated and that suspected perpetrators be brought to justice.