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Human Rights Watch rejects Hamas' claims on rockets

Palestinian militants prepare to launch rockets at Israel (file)
Hamas launched hundreds of rockets against Israeli towns

Human Rights Watch has rejected claims by the Palestinian militant group Hamas that it did not target civilians during the war in Gaza a year ago.

Hamas said that the hundreds of missiles launched at Israel during an offensive on the Gaza Strip were targeted at the Israeli military.

But Human Rights Watch said the claim Hamas rockets only accidentally harmed civilians was "belied by the facts".

A UN-backed report accused both Hamas and Israel of committing war crimes.

Israel launched a 22-day offensive against the Gaza Strip in December 2008, bombing Palestinian cities before sending in ground troops.

Hamas launched its highly inaccurate Qassam rockets in increased numbers at Israeli towns near the Gaza border, before agreeing to a ceasefire.

Palestinians and rights groups say more than 1,400 Gazans died conflict but Israel puts the figure at 1,166. Thirteen Israelis, including three civilians, were killed.

'War crime'

"Hamas' claim that rockets were intended to hit Israeli military targets and only accidentally harmed civilians is belied by the facts," the New York based group said.

"Civilians were the target, deliberately targeting civilians is a war crime."

A former international war crimes prosecutor, South African Judge Richard Goldstone, investigated the offensive and said crimes had been committed on both sides.

The UN General Assembly demanded that both sides launch independent investigations into their behaviour during the offensive, called Operation Cast Lead by the Israeli Defence Force.



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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
Haaretz Barak: Israel hands UN response to Goldstone - 34 mins ago
MSNBC Human rights group: Hamas targeted civilians - 14 hrs ago
Christian Science Monitor Why Hamas is denying it targeted civilians in Israel - 15 hrs ago
News24.com Hamas 'hit civilians by accident' - 16 hrs ago
Reuters Africa Hamas says killed Israeli civilians by mistake - 19 hrs ago



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