by Jim Lobe
August 3, 2006
Rights Group Accuses Israel of War Crimes
The 50-page report, detailed n
In none of the cases did HRW researchers find evidence that there was a significant enough military objective to justify the attack, given the risks to civilian lives, while, in many cases, there was . In still other cases cited in the report, .
according to the report.
"The pattern of attacks during the Israeli offensive in Lebanon suggests that it concluded.
The report, which was based on interviews with victims and independent witnesses of attacks, as well as investigation of the sites where the attacks occurred,
In addition, it called on United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to
Such a commission Since the onset of the latest round of fighting July 12, Hezbollah has launched some 2,000 rockets into predominantly civilian areas in Israel,
The report, whose main conclusions about Israel's failure to discriminate between civilian and military targets echo a statement by Amnesty International two days ago, was issued just hours after HRW released the preliminary results of its investigation of the July 30 Israeli air strike on an apartment building in Qana in southern Lebanon, which was initially reported to have killed 54 people, most of them children, who had taken refuge in the basement.
HRW, which took testimony from some of the nine survivors it identified, said that it had
One of the survivors, Muhammad Mahmud Shalhoub, as well as a Qana villager who helped in the rescue effort, strongly denied initial Israeli claims that any Hezbollah fighters or rocket launchers were present in or around the home when the attack took place. HRW said its own on-site investigation, which took place July 31, as well as interviews with dozens of international journalists, rescue workers and international observers who visited Qana July 30 and 31, also yielded
"The deaths in Qana were the predictable result of Israel's indiscriminate bombing campaign in Lebanon," said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of HRW's Middle East and North Africa Division, who called for international investigation to determine what took place.
Israel has insisted that it has tried hard to avoid civilian casualties, although . Israel has claimed that Hezbollah's alleged practice of shielding its fighters and arms by locating them in civilian homes or areas and firing off missiles in populated areas – allegations which HRW said are the subject of ongoing investigations – has made civilian casualties unavoidable.
"Hezbollah fighters must not hide behind civilians – that's an absolute – but the image that Israel has promoted of such shielding as the cause of so high a civilian death toll is wrong," according to HRW's executive director, Kenneth Roth.
The report also . Israel has dropped leaflets in the region and even telephoned residents warning them that if they do not flee, they will be subject to attack.
But the report stressed that many civilians have been unable to leave because they are sick, wounded, or lack the means, such as money or gasoline, or are providing essential services to the civilian population that remains there. Still others have said they are afraid to leave because the roads have come under attack by Israeli warplanes and artillery.
"The pattern of attacks shows the Israeli military's disturbing disregard for the lives of Lebanese civilians," said Roth.
Amnesty accused Israel of trying to convert southern Lebanon into a "free-fire zone," which it said Monday was "incompatible with international humanitarian law."