Skip to main content

Hamas, Islamic Jihad reject Human Rights Watch report on conduct of war

Palestinian resistance factions dispute charge of "indiscriminate attacks" on Israeli civilians.
Palestinians watch a film during the opening ceremony of the Red Carpet Human Rights Film Festival in Gaza-Karama Palestine, in front of the abandoned Cinema Amer building in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, Dec. 4, 2019.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report issued Aug. 12 angered the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip, as it accused them of carrying out “indiscriminate attacks” that killed both Palestinian and Israeli civilians. The report described the indiscriminate firing of rockets as a war crime.

HRW analyzed the attacks of Gaza’s armed factions in the 11-day war in May, during which they fired rockets, killing 12 Israeli civilians and injuring dozens. Meanwhile, 62 Palestinian civilians were killed as a result of three Israeli raids, according to a HRW report issued July 27.

The latest HRW report was based on the testimony of a Palestinian family in the Jabaliya refugee camp, in the northern Gaza Strip, who said that the rockets of the armed factions in Gaza mistakenly killed seven people there on May 10. The report was also based on a field inspection of the location where the rockets fell.

Hamas issued a statement Aug. 12 in response to the report, saying, “The resistance is keen on developing its capabilities so that it can accurately target Israeli military headquarters and activities only.”

It continued, “The Hamas movement asserts our people's inherent right to defend themselves and their sanctities, and to resist occupation by all available means, including armed resistance, which is guaranteed by international laws. In its defense of our people and the response to aggression, the resistance only targeted Israeli military gatherings and targets.”

In its statement, Hamas also welcomed “an international commission of inquiry to investigate the repeated Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip.”

The movement showed a clear desire to cooperate with the inquiry commissions to clarify the truth and bring justice to the victims.

“Based on our belief that our cause is just, and that our people are victims of racist aggression that has been ongoing for decades, we renew our respect for international law and international humanitarian law,” the statement said.

Hamas refused Al-Monitor’s request to comment on this issue.

Meanwhile, Islamic Jihad also rejected the report, describing it as “biased.”

Youssef al-Hasayneh, a member of Islamic Jihad's political bureau in Gaza told Al-Monitor, “HRW deliberately ignores what has been established by international law. It has double standards and it condemns the Palestinian people’s right to defend themselves and resist the occupation. It unacceptably equates the occupation with the occupied.”

He said, “This report is misleading in terms of international justice and shows a systematic bias toward Israel. The rockets used by the Palestinian resistance only killed a limited number of Israelis, while Israel killed thousands of civilians.”

He noted, “Israel is acting as a force above the law. HRW’s call for the International Criminal Court to investigate the Israeli and Palestinian behavior is a misleading call that aims at treating the Palestinian victim the same way as the Israeli torturer.”

Hasayneh added, “The resistance avoids civilian places, and it possesses modest tools compared to what the occupation has.”

Anas al-Jarjawi, a human rights activist and CEO at the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor in Gaza, told Al-Monitor that the HRW reports are objective and impartial.

He said, “The fact that HRW issued a report in July condemning Israel for committing serious violations in the recent attack on the Gaza Strip does not mean that it will ignore what it observes regarding the military behavior of armed factions in Gaza.”

Jarjawi noted, “We were faced with a shocking reality resulting from the Israeli attack, whether in terms of the size of the massacres that were committed, the number of dead and injured, or the scale of destruction — all of which cannot be compared to what the armed factions' attacks have caused.”

He added, “Most of the Israeli attacks were carried out with accurate smart bombs and missiles, the margin of error of which may be nonexistent, unlike the indiscriminate rockets fired by armed factions on Israeli towns and cities.”

Human rights organizations are always caught between the exchanged accusations between the parties to the conflict. “Exposing and documenting violations harms the reputation of political parties, so they do not want to be held accountable or questioned for these violations,” Jarjawi said.

He pointed out, “The armed factions in Gaza are subject to criticism, and they must respect the rules of international humanitarian law in the event of armed conflict, foremost among which is avoiding targeting civilians and civilian facilities. They should ensure that the military means they use are only able to achieve the military objective without harming any civilians and civil facilities.”

Salah Abdel-Ati, director of the International Commission to Support the Palestinian Rights in Gaza, told Al-Monitor, “The Palestinian factions were not pleased with the HRW report because it said their actions could be considered war crimes. It evaded the truth on the pretext of neutrality. However, the right to resistance is a legitimate right, according to the first protocol annexed to the Geneva Convention, which legitimizes acts of resistance against the occupier, with various acts of sabotage.”

He said, “The factions had previously opened investigations into similar internal mistakes or violations that occurred in the context of resisting the occupation and compensated those who were harmed.”

Abdel-Ati noted, “Hamas is fully aware that there are attempts to circumvent the international investigation, so it welcomed a serious international inquiry, and it is not afraid of being held accountable.”

He concluded, “We — as workers in human rights centers — monitor all Israeli or local violations, and we document them clearly through our reports, studies and meetings with various parties. Internal investigations have indeed been conducted and several internal errors have already been addressed. We look forward to having more measures that prevent the recurrence of such violations in the future.”

More from A correspondent in Gaza