JERUSALEM – Israeli and Palestinian factions in Gaza have breached international law during a recent flare-up of violence, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.
The latest outbreak of violence in May, the worst since 2014, saw four Israeli airstrikes launched against non-military Palestinian targets, killing civilians, including two women and two children, in violation of international laws.
“Both Israel and Palestinian armed groups are carrying out attacks with disturbing disregard for the protection of civilians,” said the HRW deputy program director, Tom Porteous.
A HRW statement stressed that unguided rockets launched from Gaza toward Israel that killed four civilians were unlawful and haphazard in their effect.
Its report was based on interviews from both sides, visits to conflict zones, inspections of munition remnants and analysis of official statements released from both parties.
The human rights group deduced that “in two of the four Israeli attacks investigated, Human Rights Watch found no evidence of a military objective – such as enemy fighters or weapons or other military material – needed for an attack to be lawful under the laws of war.”
The Israeli military targeted 350 positions belonging to the Islamist Hamas movement and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, leaving 25 Palestinians dead and 153 others wounded, according to the report.
It added that humanitarian organizations have documented “33 residential units destroyed in Gaza, 327 people left homeless, and 700 housing units partially damaged.”
A total of 690 unguided rockets were launched against Israeli urban centers, killing three Israeli civilians and injuring 123 others.
“Rockets used by Palestinian armed groups cannot target a specific military objective, making their use in areas containing civilians inherently indiscriminate in violation of the laws of war,” the report stated.
The organization criticized Israeli actions of collective punishment against civilians, such as the reduction of the Gaza fishing zone and limiting the access of goods through Gaza crossings.
“Israel and Hamas, as the de facto authority in Gaza, have a duty to investigate allegations of serious violations of the laws of war,” the report concluded.
It called on the International Criminal Court to bring justice to the victims and their families by establishing a formal investigation.
The recent violence ended after the reestablishment of an agreement to cease hostilities brokered by Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations.
This ending of hostilities seeks to establish peace in the region and ease the Israeli blockade on Gaza, which has been in effect for nearly 12 years.