Gaza rockets killed Palestinians, Israelis in ‘flagrant’ war crimes – HRW
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Gaza rockets killed Palestinians, Israelis in ‘flagrant’ war crimes – HRW

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Human Rights Watch (HRW) slammed Palestinian terror groups for killing and injuring both Israelis and Palestinians with rocket fire, saying that they had committed war crimes during Operation Guardian of the Walls, in a report published on Thursday.

The organization stated that munitions that misfired and fell short killed and injured an “undetermined number” of Palestinians in Gaza. In one incident of a misfire over Jabalia in the Strip, seven Palestinian civilians were killed and 15 others were injured. HRW was able to determine that the deaths were caused by a misfire based on witness accounts, site visits, munition remnants and a review of video footage.

A rocket launched from Gaza landed about 20 meters from a mosque in Jabalia. One Palestinian resident HRW interviewed said that he was told afterwards that six rockets had been launched from a shopping and residential area one kilometer from where the rocket hit. The other five rockets hit different areas nearby. The Defense for Children Palestinian organization announced at the time that eight Palestinians had been killed in the misfire, including two children.

According to Israeli authorities, 680 Palestinian rockets fell short and landed in Gaza, causing deaths and injuries in some cases. Hamas has not provided information about how many rockets misfired or how many people were killed by these rockets.

“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,” said Eric Goldstein, acting Middle East and North Africa director at HRW. “The failure of both Hamas authorities and the Israeli government to provide accountability for alleged war crimes by their forces highlights the essential role of the International Criminal Court.”

Over 4,360 unguided rockets and mortars toward were fired by Palestinian terror groups towards Israel during Operation Guardian of the Walls, killing 12 civilians and injuring several hundred people. HRW stated that Hamas authorities should stop unlawful rocket attacks toward Israeli population centers.

HRW interviewed 12 people in Israel and Gaza who witnessed a Palestinian rocket attack or are relatives of civilians who were killed.

The report stressed that “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 HRW report added that Palestinian armed groups have fired unguided rockets in past rounds of fighting as well.

HRW recommended that the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) include unlawful Palestinian rocket attacks against Israel, as well as unlawful Israeli attacks in Gaza, in its war crimes probe against Israel and Hamas.

The organization additionally recommended that a Commission of Inquiry established by the UN Human Rights Council in May examine unlawful attacks committed by Palestinian armed groups, but stressed that the larger context of the violence should be analyzed as well, including what it called Israel’s discriminatory treatment of Palestinians.

HRW called for judicial authorities in other countries to investigate and prosecute those “credibly implicated in serious crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories and in Israel.”

In the report, HRW stressed that the conflict broke out amid the continuing blockade on the Gaza Strip and after attempts to evict Palestinian residents from homes in east Jerusalem, calling this “part of the Israeli government’s crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.” The report added that Palestinian armed groups claimed that they were launching the rockets as a “response to unlawful Israeli attacks.”

The report did not mention attacks on Jewish-Israelis which took place in the days leading up to Operation Guardian of the Walls and during the operation in riots which took place throughout Israel.

Goldstein stressed that “Hamas authorities should stop trying to justify unlawful rocket attacks that indiscriminately kill and injure civilians by pointing to Israel’s violations. The laws of war are meant to protect all civilians from harm.”

In July, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist organization claimed that it called off missions during Operation Guardian of the Walls when it found out that children were in areas they planned on targeting, despite the terrorist group firing hundreds of unguided rockets that it cannot precisely aim towards civilian areas.

PIJ spokesperson Abu Hamza stated in an interview with Al-Jazeera that when the terrorist organization found out there were children present at targets, “these missions were stopped,” adding “the enemy knows very well what I am talking about.”

Two Israeli children were killed by rocket fire from Gaza during the operation, including five-year-old Ido Avigal and a 16-year-old Nadin Awad.

The rockets which Gaza terrorist groups possess are unguided, meaning that the terrorist organizations cannot target specific locations with much accuracy.

The terrorist spokesperson’s statement echoed statements the IDF often makes during operations to explain its policies to avoid civilian casualties. The IDF often calls off missions if civilians are spotted at the targeted location.

Palestinian terrorist groups have repeatedly been found to violate the rights of children and place children at risk.

UNRWA schools in the Gaza Strip have been used as sites to store and fire rockets. Attack tunnels have also been found to lead to these schools.

In April, HRW accused Israel of the crime of apartheid for the first time, saying Israel met the legal definition for crimes of apartheid as set out by the Rome Statute.

HRW Executive Director Ken Roth came under fire in July after he retweeted a report on the severe spike in antisemitism in the UK during Israel’s war with Gaza in May when he implied that Israeli government action was responsible for antisemitism.

“Antisemitism is always wrong, and it long preceded the creation of Israel, but the surge in UK antisemitic incidents during the recent Gaza conflict gives the lie to those who pretend that the Israeli government’s conduct doesn’t affect antisemitism,” tweeted Roth.

 

Jeremy Sharon and Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.

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