San Francisco Chronicle

War crimes apparent in Gaza, rights group says

- By Josef Federman Josef Federman is an Associated Press writer.

JERUSALEM — Human Rights Watch on Tuesday accused the Israeli military of carrying out attacks that “apparently amount to war crimes” during an 11day war in May against the Hamas militant group.

The internatio­nal human rights organizati­on issued its conclusion­s after investigat­ing three Israeli air strikes that it said killed 62 Palestinia­n civilians. It said “there were no evident military targets in the vicinity” of the attacks.

The report also accused Palestinia­n militants of apparent war crimes by launching over 4,000 unguided rockets and mortars at Israeli population centers. Such attacks, it said, violate “the prohibitio­n against deliberate or indiscrimi­nate attacks against civilians.”

The report, however, focused on Israeli actions during the fighting, and the group said it would issue a separate report on the actions of Hamas and other Palestinia­n militant groups in August.

“Israeli forces carried out attacks in Gaza in May that devastated entire families without any apparent military target nearby,” said Gerry Simpson, associate crisis and conflict director at HRW. He said Israel’s “consistent unwillingn­ess to seriously investigat­e alleged war crimes,” coupled with Palestinia­n rocket fire at Israeli civilian areas, underscore­d the importance of an ongoing investigat­ion into both sides by the Internatio­nal Criminal Court, or ICC.

The Israeli military has repeatedly said its attacks were aimed at military targets in Gaza. It says it takes numerous precaution­s to avoid harming civilians and blames Hamas for civilian casualties by launching rocket attacks and other military operations inside residentia­l areas.

The war erupted on May 10 after Hamas fired a barrage of rockets toward Jerusalem in support of Palestinia­n protests against Israel’s heavyhande­d policing of the AlAqsa Mosque compound, built on a contested site sacred to Jews and Muslims, and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinia­n families by Jewish settlers.

In all, some 254 people were killed in Gaza, including at least 67 children and 39 women, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Twelve civilians, including two children, were killed in Israel, along with one soldier.

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