Report: Rocket attacks on Israel by Palestinians in Gaza are war crimes

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Several rocket attacks launched at Israel from inside the Gaza Strip amount to war crimes, the human rights group Amnesty International said.

In a report released on Wednesday, Amnesty International also found that Palestinian rocket fire during the Hamas-Israel conflict in summer 2014 killed more civilians inside the Gaza Strip than inside Israel due to the use of unguided projectiles which cannot be accurately aimed at specific targets, which in many cases landed inside of Gaza instead of on intended targets in Israel.

“Palestinian armed groups, including the armed wing of Hamas, repeatedly launched unlawful attacks during the conflict killing and injuring civilians. In launching these attacks, they displayed a flagrant disregard for international humanitarian law and for the consequences of their violations on civilians in both Israel and the Gaza Strip,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International, in a statement.

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Using unguided weapons is prohibited under international law and their use constitutes a war crime.

“Palestinian armed groups must end all direct attacks on civilians and indiscriminate attacks. They must also take all feasible precautions to protect civilians in the Gaza Strip from the effects of such attacks. This includes taking all possible measures to avoid locating fighters and arms within or near densely populated areas,” Luther said.

At least 1,585 Palestinian civilians, including more than 530 children, were killed in Gaza, according to Amnesty, and at least 16,245 homes were destroyed or rendered uninhabitable by Israeli attacks during the conflict. Six Israeli civilians also were killed. Amnesty says some of these attacks also amounted to war crimes.

“The devastating impact of Israeli attacks on Palestinian civilians during the conflict is undeniable, but violations by one side in a conflict can never justify violations by their opponents,” said Luther.

He called on both sides to cooperate with investigations by the United Nations Commission of Inquiry and the International Criminal Court to end what he called “a cycle of violations in which civilians on both sides have paid a heavy price.”

Among the civilian deaths cited in the report as caused by the Palestinians is that of Daniel Tragerman, 4, who was killed on Aug. 22, 2014, when a mortar launched from Gaza struck the family car, causing shrapnel to enter his head, killing him. Hamas’ military wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, claimed responsibility for the attack

Another incident highlighted was the death of 13 Palestinian civilians, including 11 children, when a rocket exploded next to a Gaza supermarket on the first day of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr.  Although Palestinians claimed that the Israeli military was responsible for the attack, an independent munitions expert who examined the available evidence on behalf of Amnesty International concluded that the projectile used in the attack was a Palestinian rocket.

The report also called on Israel to provide adequate protection from rocket attacks to “all Israeli citizens and residents without discrimination, which means urgently addressing the current lack of shelters in the recognized and unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev.”

Amnesty previously issued two reports on Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, which were critical of Israel’s military.