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Human Rights Group Slams Hezbollah Civilian Attacks

The international human rights group Amnesty International has criticized the Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah for its actions during the recent conflict with Israel. The report follows a earlier one that criticized Israeli actions.

In a report released Thursday, Amnesty International accused Hezbollah of what it called "serious violations of international humanitarian law" during the recent conflict with Israel.

The group said that Hezbollah's stream of rockets fired from Lebanon into northern Israel amounted to the deliberate targeting of civilians. Hezbollah fired thousands of rockets into Israel, killing, Amnesty says, 43 people, including four who died of heart attacks. The rockets used by Hezbollah were Kyatushas, which are not precision weapons.

The group reiterated its call for an independent, impartial inquiry into the conduct of both Israel and Hezbollah during the 34-day conflict.

Phillip Luther, one of the researchers and authors of the report, tells VOA that people from all the Arab, Druze, and Jewish communities living in northern Israel were affected by the Hezbollah attacks. But, he adds, Hezbollah appears to have tried to deliberately target the Jewish community.

"What we've been particularly looking at as well as the destruction on the ground and the lives that have been shattered in Israel itself has been to try to analyze the statements made by Hezbollah during the conflict in which they clearly set out the intent not only to hit and kill Israeli civilians, but also in some statements to specifically target Israeli Jews," he said.

He noted that at one point, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah specifically urged the Arab residents of Haifa to leave, implying that the group only wanted to kill the Jewish population.

Last month, Amnesty International issued a report that was sharply critical of Israeli actions during the conflict, particularly attacks on civilian targets. Israel denies that it targeted civilians, saying it only went after legitimate Hezbollah targets.

Luther says that Hezbollah also denied any misconduct during the conflict.

"Hezbollah leadership responded essentially that it had abided by as far as possible the laws of war, that any actions that it had taken which had targeted Israeli civilians were limited, were merely done as a form of reprisal against they termed as a disproportionate attack by Israel on Lebanon and the killing of hundreds of civilians," he continued.

But Luther says that is an insufficient excuse in Amnesty International's view.

"Our response to that essentially is that the excuse of reprisals, even if that were to be the case, is not one that one can use legitimately, that the attacking the civilian population of another country in reprisal for attacks on your civilians is another violation of international humanitarian law in itself in addition to the occasions when one directly and deliberately attacks civilians, if you like, as an action and not a reaction," noted Luther.

Luther says Amnesty International is also investigating Israeli allegations that Hezbollah used the civilian population as human shields. Hezbollah denies the charge, and Luther says there is not enough data to come to any firm conclusion on the issue.