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Rights group: Gaza rockets constituted war crimes

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WASHINGTON (JTA) — Rocket attacks launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel’s South amount to war crimes, Human Rights Watch said.

In a report issued Wednesday, the group said the indiscriminate nature of the rockets, the dense civilian population in the general area of where the rockets are aimed, and statements from the leadership of Gaza’s Hamas rulers and other groups make it clear that civilians are targeted.

Additionally, it said, effective Israeli defenses, including early warning systems, that have minimized the impact of the rockets do not mitigate the crimes.

"The repeated attacks have, over months and even years, taken a psychological toll on the population in areas close to Gaza," the report said.

It said "the laws of war" prohibit attacks whose "primary purpose is to spread terror among the civilian population. Because of the rocket attacks, thousands of people have moved away from frequently targeted areas such as Sderot municipality."

Israel’s much more forceful response was not pertinent to whether the attacks constituted war crimes, the report said.

"The purpose of the laws of war is not to create parity between parties to a conflict, or to assess their violations in light of their relevant capacities, but to minimize the harm to the civilian population," Human Rights Watch said.

The group also has described Israeli actions during January’s Gaza Operation Cast Lead as war crimes. Israel launched the 3 1/2-week-old operation in a bid to halt rocket attacks from Gaza.

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