Amnesty International: Hamas rockets were war crimes, killed Gazans

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Palestinian armed groups committed war crimes by indiscriminately firing rockets at civilians in Israel during the conflict between Israel and Hamas last summer, Amnesty International said in a report published on Thursday.

This is the first report by the London-based human rights group that specifically focuses on Palestinian rocket fire from Gaza.

The 63-page report entitled, “Unlawful and Deadly: rocket and mortar attacks by Palestinian armed groups during the 2014 Gaza/Israel conflict,” is the third in a series of reports on the war, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge. The first two focused on Israeli military action in Gaza and a fourth upcoming report will look at summary killings by Hamas in Gaza.

“Palestinian armed groups, including the armed wing of Hamas, repeatedly launched unlawful attacks during the conflict, killing six and injuring civilians,”said Philip Luther, director of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

“In launching these attacks, they displayed a flagrant disregard for international humanitarian law and for the consequences of their violations on civilians in both Israel and the Gaza Strip,” Luther said.

The report includes evidence supporting the conclusion that that the death of 13 Gazan civilians, including 11 children, at the Al-Shafi refugee camp on 28 July was caused by a misfired Hamas rocket. Israel asserted this at the time based on information from its radar systems, but Hamas claimed an Israeli airstrike had caused the deaths.

The report states that Hamas’s firing of inaccurate mortars and rockets, indiscriminately at Israeli population centres constituted a war crime, and says that despite the success of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system, some 224 projectiles scored hits in populated areas, of some 4,800 rockets and 1,700 mortars which were fired.

Four Israeli civilians were killed, the youngest of whom was four-year-old Daniel Tragerman, hit by shrapnel from a mortar in his home on Kibbutz Nahal Oz. The report further criticised Hamas for firing its rockets in the vicinity of civilians, and storing rockets in civilian buildings.

The report also criticised Israel for failing to provide early warning and protection for Bedouin living in the Negev region of southern Israel, and reiterated its claims from earlier reports that some of Israel’s actions in the war also constituted war crimes. Amnesty plans further reports on both Israeli and Palestinian conduct during the conflict.