Hamas accused of war crimes in Gaza
Human rights groups urge
inquiry into conduct of both sides during three-week
guardian.co.uk, Monday 23 March
As well as investigating Israel's conduct during its war in Gaza,
human rights groups have found evidence that violations of
international law were committed by Hamas and other armed
In a letter to European Union foreign ministers, Human Rights Watch
called for an investigation into the conduct of both sides and
accountability for any individuals held responsible for war crimes.
It noted that members of Hamas, and other Palestinian militants,
fired hundreds of rockets into southern Israel during the
three-week war, aimed at towns like Sderot and Ashkelon. It said
the rockets were inaccurate and were clearly aimed at civilian
Three Israeli civilians were killed by rocket attacks during the
war and, in total, about 20 people have been killed in Israel by
rocket and mortar attacks out of Gaza in the past eight
"Those who wilfully conduct such attacks are responsible for war
crimes," Human Rights Watch said.
It said Hamas deployed fighters in civilian homes during the
conflict and fired rockets from bases close to civilian areas, both
violations of international humanitarian law.
Israel has claimed that Hamas frequently used Palestinians as human
shields against Israeli attack, but Human Rights Watch said it
could not find any such cases. It said its investigation had been
limited because Israel had refused to grant its researchers access
Human rights groups, both international and Gazan, have found
evidence corroborating witness accounts obtained after the war by
the Guardian showing that Hamas launched a crackdown against its
perceived internal rivals, injuring and sometimes killing them in a
wave of attacks. Some were accused of collaborating with Israel,
others were members of the security forces loyal to the rival
Palestinian faction, Fatah.
Amnesty International, which has investigated the Gaza war, has
called for a broad, international investigation into violations by
both sides. It found Hamas and other Palestinian militants fired
rockets indiscriminately at Israeli civilians, and said Hamas
smuggled weapons into Gaza under the Egyptian border that had been
acquired from "clandestine sources".
Hamas officials do not deny the rocket attacks. In an interview
with the Guardian in Gaza immediately after the war, Ahmed Yusuf,
an adviser in Hamas' foreign ministry, openly defended those firing
the rockets. "They are heroes because they defend the Palestinian
people," he said.
"We live under occupation and we have a legitimate right to defend
ourselves. With only negotiations you will achieve nothing … If you
don't keep your hands on the gun nobody will respect