The Goldstone committee, appointed by the United Nations to examine the conduct of Israel and Hamas during the Gaza operation, called both sides to investigate their own violations of laws of war within six months.
The report, which was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council over the weekend, concluded that among other issues, the firing of rockets on Israeli civilian population must be investigated as a possible war crime.
Leah Whitson, director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa division said that "Hamas, just like Israel, needs to make clear to its forces that unlawful attacks on civilians will not be ignored," adding that " "acting on Goldstone's call for investigations would be a crucial step toward justice for all the civilian victims of the war."
Hiding from Qassam rockets (Photo: AFP)
Hamas announced on October 15 it will investigate the accusations, saying that "even though we disagree with certain aspects in the Goldstone Report, we intend to act according to the recommendations made by the report, and conduct self investigations of alleged war crimes committed by members of the resistance movement in the Gaza Strip."
In the letter sent to Haniyeh Monday, HRW called Hamas to clarify its position on civilian attacks, following declarations made by official Hamas sources that indicated their intention to aim rocket fire at civilian targets.
Human Rights Watch wrote Haniyeh that even though Israeli forces injured many civilians in what appeared to be illegal attacks during Operation Cast Lead, according to the laws of war, engaging in retaliation acts against civilians is forbidden.
The organization explained that "while Israel's armed forces were vastly superior to those in Gaza and caused far greater harm to civilians in Gaza than Palestinian armed groups caused to Israelis, Palestinian armed groups remain responsible for firing rockets indiscriminately or deliberately at Israeli civilian objects."
HRW claimed that in the past Hamas avoided conducting such investigations into laws of war violations. "In the past Hamas tried to justify the unjustifiable by defending unlawful rocket attacks," Whitson said. "Having now promised to follow the Goldstone Report's recommendations, Hamas has no excuse for not carrying out serious war crimes investigations."