Israel, Hamas both committed violations during Gaza assault: HRW

Ahram Online , Friday 1 Feb 2013

Tel Aviv regime, resistance faction Hamas are both responsible for humanitarian breaches during last November's assault on Gaza Strip in which more than 170 Palestinians died, rights watchdog claims

West Bank
Jewish settlement of Modiin Illit is seen in the background while a protestor waves a Palestinian flag in front of Israeli troops during a protest against Israel's separation barrier in the West Bank village of Bilin,Friday, Feb. 17, 2012 (Photo: AP)

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday revealed that Israel and Palestinian resistance faction Hamas had committed "unlawful attacks" on civilians during the weeklong Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip in November of last year.

According to the watchdog's annual report, the assault – in which more than 170 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed in Israeli airstrikes – came as a consequence of "escalatory steps" taken by both sides throughout 2012.

The report noted the Tel Aviv regime's "punitive closure" of Gaza's borders, which, the rights group said, had created severe consequences for the territory's roughly 1.7 million inhabitants.

The HRW study also referred to a recent World Bank report that stated that the "severity of poverty has increased" among the population in Gaza. The Word Bank report went on to note that more than 70 percent of the strip's residents lived chiefly on humanitarian assistance.

Israeli authorities, meanwhile, the HRW report noted, had allowed imports into Gaza – including construction materials for projects funded by international organisations – at less than half of "pre-closure levels."

HRW also pointed out that Egypt had recently aided in easing restrictions on the movement of Palestinians through the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. Almost all other imports and exports, however, remain proscribed until now.

Egypt, meanwhile, had "turned a blind eye" to the extensive network of tunnels along the Sinai-Gaza border, the report stated.

Israeli forces have maintained a 500-metre-long 'no-go' zone from the border with Gaza, HRW went on to note, opening fire on any Gazan who attempted to cross the area.

During the November assault, Israeli forces launched a series of destructive attacks against buildings and media centres across the besieged coastal enclave, including the office of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya.

The report also accused Israel of confiscating Palestinian fishing boats that ventured more than three nautical miles from the Gaza coastline, preventing access to 85 percent of Gaza's internationally-recognised maritime territory.

On the other hand, HRW stated that Hamas, along with other Palestinian armed groups, had launched more than 1,800 rockets towards Israeli sites during the conflict. Six Israelis died as a result of rockets fired by Hamas fighters into Israel.

Moreover, Mohamed Mafarja, 18, was accused of planting a bomb on behalf of Hamas that led to an explosion on a Tel Aviv bus near Israel's defence ministry complex on 21 November.

On the same day, Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced a ceasefire between Israel and the Gaza-based resistance movement at a press conference in Cairo.

US President Barack Obama later thanked Egyptian counterpart Mohamed Morsi for his role is negotiating a truce between Israel and Palestinian resistance groups in Gaza.

The HRW report pointed to other rights violations committed by Israel in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

"Israel imposed severe restrictions on Palestinians' right to freedom of movement, continued to build unlawful settlements in occupied territory, and arbitrarily detained Palestinians, including children and peaceful protesters," the report said.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's government recently announced plans to build almost 3,000 Jewish-only settler units on Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank, just days before a UN vote on Palestinian recognition.

Construction of the Jewish-only settlements will take place in the highly sensitive "E-1" area of the West Bank, which lies between annexed East Jerusalem and the nearby Ma'ale Adumim settlement.  

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