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Human Rights Watch equates Palestinian, Israeli shelling

Human Rights Watch likened Israel’s shelling of Gaza to Palestinian militiamen’s firing of Kassam rockets into Israel, saying both constitute war crimes.In a 146-page report released Sunday, titled “Indiscriminate Fire: Palestinian Rocket Attacks on Israel and Israeli Artillery Shelling in the Gaza Strip,” the group said both Palestinian armed groups and the Israel Defense Forces “have shown insufficient regard for civilian life,” and that such actions “constitute serious violations of the laws of war.”The group issued its mutual condemnation despite the fact that, according to its own report, Israel has not fired artillery shells into the Gaza Strip since November 2006. By contrast, hardly a day goes by when Palestinian militants do not fire rockets at civilian communities in Israel. The most recent casualties of the Palestinian rockets attacks were three Israelis injured June 20.”Tit-for-tat abuses can’t be justified by arguing that the other side violated the law first: The laws of war are meant to protect civilians from harm, whatever the reason,” said Joe Stork, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division. “Otherwise, the cycle of violence spirals out of control, as happened in Gaza and Israel.””There is an opportunity to end this appalling disregard for civilian lives if both parties learn the lessons of the past two years,” Stork said.