A new Humans Right Watch report determined Thursday that Hamas rocket fire on Israel's south constitutes a war crime.
The 25-page report documents rocket fire from the Gaza Strip towards Israel starting November 2008 – a period when three Israelis were killed and dozens of others injured as a result of projectiles.
The report states that the rocket fire caused extensive damage and forced people out of their homes. Contrary to international law, the fire was aimed at civilian population within a 25-mile radius, endangering some 800,000 Israelis.
During the same time period, several rockets fired at Israel landed on the Palestinian side of the security fence, killing two girls and injuring numerous other Palestinians.
Civilians ducking for cover at the sound of a siren (Photo: AFP)
Moreover, said the report, armed militants firing rockets from densely populated areas in the Strip were putting Palestinian civilians in harms way by risking Israeli counter-strikes, thus grossly breaching the rules of war.
The report further states that Hamas rocket fire on Israeli civilians is illegal, unjustified and constitutes a war crime.
As the ruling authority in the Gaza Strip, it added, Hamas must publicly renounce rocket fire on populated Israeli areas, and punish those responsible for it, including members of Hamas' own military wings.
According to internationally accepted Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC), anyone who sanctions and/or initiates indiscriminate or direct attacks on civilian population is guilty of war crimes.
'Militants systematically breached rules of war'
The report focuses on events which occurred from November 2008 and on, which is when the Palestinian militant groups renewed their fire on southern Israel.
Human Rights Watch based its report on eyewitness reports, field reports and various media reports. The brief details many cases in which Israelis and Palestinians were killed or injured as a result of Hamas fire, but nevertheless, it states that it found no deliberate pattern by Hamas, to use civilians as human shields.
Home damaged by Grad rocket (Photo: Roee Idan)
Still, HRW did find that the Palestinian groups systematically breached the LOAC code by failing to take every possible precaution to avoid putting Gazans at risk.
Hamas' military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, has claimed the attacks which resulted in three Israeli deaths.
The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades and Islamic Jihad's al-Quds Brigades claim they fired 820 rockets on Israel during Operation Cast Lead in early 2009.
The incessant, years-long rocket fire on Israel's south, concluded the report, has taken a serious psychological toll on the area's residents.
The rules of war prohibit launching attacks aimed solely at terrorizing civilian population.