A new Human Rights Watch report released Tuesday claims that in violation with international law, the Israel Defense Force used indiscriminate RPV fire during Operation Cast Lead, causing the deaths of innocent Palestinian civilians.
The HRW report alleges that Israel used remote-piloted vehicles to fire guided missiles on Gaza Strip during its January offensive and demanded the IDF release its footage of the deadly strikes.
The Israeli military did not cooperate with HRW on the report and said that its conclusions were unreliable and propagandist.
The report, titled " Precisely Wrong: Gaza Civilians Killed by Israeli Drone-Launched Missiles," details six incidents which resulted in civilian deaths, including that of eight children. The report claims that 42 indiscriminate RPV attacks killed 87 Palestinians.
HRW said its report was based on field work, victim interviews and eyewitness accounts, as well as on an examination of strike sites, missile debris and medical reports.
Marc Garlasco, a senior military analyst with HRW who specializes in battle damage assessment, military operations, and interrogations, said that drone operators have a clear view of their targets on the ground, as well as the ability to deflect missiles once they have been fired.
Given these capabilities, he added, Israel must account for the civilian deaths.
The six cases detailed in the report make no mention of any Palestinian militants being anywhere around the strike sites, but note that the drone operators "had sufficient time" to ascertain whether they were watching civilians or combatants.
If such a distinction was impossible to make, said HRW, the IDF should have held its fire.
HRW claims that in three of the case, the drones fired missiles of children playing on rooftops in a known residential area, which was far away from the fighting area.
The first day of the Israeli offensive in Gaza, adds the report, saw a missile hit a group of student waiting in a bus stop in a densely populated area in central Gaza, killing 12 people.
Mistaken identity. Oxygen tank thought to be Grad missile (Photo: B'Tselem)
The report also mentions the misfire incident on a truck carrying oxygen tanks, which were mistakenly identified as Grad missiles. The IDF released footage of the strike, saying its proximity to a Hamas hub led to the ill-fated conclusion, but according to the group, the footage just proves that the military should have held fire.
The IDF's indiscriminative fire, concludes the report, was in gross violation of the international Rules of War, especially given the advanced technology of the drones.
"The Israeli government is required to investigate these incidents by law," said the report.
The IDF seemed dismissive of the report Tuesday. "This report's credibility is questionable since it is based on anonymous, unreliable Palestinian sources which dubious military expertise," said an IDF Spokesman's Unit statement.
"These sources do, however, have a clear agenda as part of Gaza's propaganda campaign."
HRW, added the IDF, chose to base its report solely on Palestinian testimonies and it completely ignores the fact that "Hamas made deliberate use of civilian structures and facilities."
The IDF said that the report also ignored the findings of the five investigative teams probing the operation, which concluded that none of the cases involving military fire of civilian were deliberate.