Human Rights Watch (HRW), one of the world’s leading independent organizations dedicated to defending human rights, released a report Monday, condemning the Hamas rulers of Gaza for War Crimes.
During a released statement on their website, the human rights organization condemned not only the launching of some 1500 rockets at Israelis, with 800 hitting Israeli territory, but also for doing so from within Palestinian civilian areas.
During the Operation ‘Pillar of Defense’, HRW interviewed witnesses, victims and their families, Israeli officials from the communities struck by the rockets and a spokesperson for Israeli emergency services.
“Palestinian armed groups made clear in their statements that harming civilians was their aim,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East Director at Human Rights Watch. “There is simply no legal justification for launching rockets at populated areas.”
This report is unique because for the first time, it puts the onus of responsibility on Hamas, as the ruling party of the Gaza Strip. This differs from the stance that views Gaza’s territory as part of a greater Palestine, together with Judea and Samaria. It also attempts to hold armed groups, rather than states, accountable for attacks on civilians.
“The laws of war prohibit reprisal attacks against civilians, regardless of unlawful attacks by the other side”, Human Rights Watch stated. “Statements by armed groups that they deliberately targeted an Israeli city or Israeli civilians are demonstrating their intent to commit war crimes,” the organization added. “Hamas, the ruling authority in Gaza, is obligated to uphold the laws of war and should appropriately punish those responsible for serious violations,” the organization concluded.
The report is significant because it was released several weeks after the successful Palestinian bid at the United Nations General Assembly upgrading its status to that of a “non member state”. The report, by focusing on the Gaza Strip and the separate Hamas rulers, indicates that the Palestinian territories are far from united, both diplomatically and during international conflicts, according to HRW.
This report comes after HRW released a 43 page report in October titled “Abusive System”, condemning Hamas for corruption and human rights abuses.