A report published Thursday night by Amnesty International said rocket attacks by Hizbullah on northern Israel during the recent war in Lebanon were considered war crimes and violated international law.
According to the report, "Hizbullah’s rocket attacks on northern Israel amounted to deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian objects, as well as indiscriminate attacks, both war crimes under international law."
During the war, Hizbullah fired primarily Katyusha-type rockets with a range of 20-40km, as well as a few hundred improved versions of Katyushas with a longer range and higher caliber. Those fired included rockets with warheads packed with thousands of metal ball bearings intended to maximize harm to people.
Once the rockets struck, the ball bearings sprayed out, inflicting death and injury for 300 meters or more if in the open. Katyusha rockets cannot be aimed with accuracy, especially at long distances, and are therefore indiscriminate.
Hizbullah bound by international law
The report emphasizes, although Hizbullah is a non-governmental organization, it is bound by a number of rules and principles of international humanitarian law. Some of these obligations, including the requirement to treat humanely at all times people taking no active part in hostilities, are contained in the 1949 Geneva Conventions.
The report added that the Hizbullah attacks also violated other rules of international humanitarian law, including the prohibition on reprisal attacks on the civilian population.
During the war, Hizbullah fired 3,970 rockets into northern Israel - 901 of them landing in urban areas -killing 43 civilians, including four who died of heart attacks. The victims, among them seven children, included Jewish and Arab Israelis. Many other civilians were injured.
More than 1,000 rockets landed in the Kiryat Shmona area, 808 in or near Nahariya, 471 in or near Safed, 176 in or near Carmiel, 106 in or near Acre, 93 in or near Haifa, and 81 in or near Tiberias. Almost a third of Israel’s population – more than 2 million people – resides within the region targeted by the rockets.
Throughout the conflict, hundreds of thousands of Israeli civilians remained in the north within range of the rockets, many seeking safety in underground bomb shelters for much of the time. Others – between 350,000 and half a million people – fled their homes and were forced to seek refuge elsewhere.
Additionally, as a result of the rockets, at least 4,262 civilians were treated in hospitals. Of these, 33 were seriously wounded, 68 moderately, and 1,388 lightly. Some 2,773 were treated for shock and anxiety. Twelve Israeli soldiers were also killed, all of them in a single strike, as they were about to enter Lebanon.
Amnesty International placed the figure of buildings damaged at 12,000. A small percentage received a direct hit from a Katyusha rocket and were seriously damaged, sometimes evidently beyond repair. Most were located in the vicinity of a building which was hit directly and suffered lighter damage.
The report on Hizbullah is the second in a series of reports on the Lebanon war. The first, published three weeks ago, focused on damages in Lebanon - particularly among Lebanese civilians - and claimed that Israel deliberately targeted civilian infrastructure.
The second report concludes with a call for a "comprehensive, independent and impartial inquiry to be conducted by the UN into violations of international humanitarian law by both sides in the conflict."