The human-rights world has spent the last month debating the Goldstone Report’s conclusions that Israel may have committed war crimes during its assault on Gaza last winter. Human Rights Watch is pointing out that the report accused Hamas fighters of potential war crimes, too. The group—which has lately been under fire for what critics call an anti-Israel bias—sent a letter yesterday to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, calling on Hamas to implement the Goldstone Report recommendations for a “thorough and impartial investigation” of its conduct during the conflict. “We welcome the October 15 statement from your foreign ministry, which says the authorities will conduct investigations into the allegations against the armed wing of Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups,” said the letter, signed by HRW’s Middle East director, Sarah Leah Whitson. “We therefore call on Hamas to conduct thorough, independent and impartial investigations into alleged violations of international humanitarian law by members of the Qassam Brigades and other armed groups in Gaza, and to prosecute in conformity with international fair trial standards those found responsible for rocket attacks that target Israeli population centers, as recommended by the Goldstone report.”
The letter also directly addressed the question of whether the military wing of Hamas targets civilians with its Qassam rockets. “Human Rights Watch would also like to ask for clarification of recent statements by Hamas spokespersons that Hamas rocket attacks into southern Israel were intended to target Israeli military bases, but not Israeli civilians,” the letter said. “Previous statements by Hamas leaders, as well as our own research, indicate that rocket attacks by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups deliberately targeted Israeli civilians or were launched towards Israeli population centers indiscriminately. The Goldstone report concluded that Hamas was responsible for serious violations of the laws of war, including war crimes and possible crimes against humanity, in connection with these rocket attacks directed against Israeli civilians.”
“Hamas, just like Israel, needs to make clear to its forces that unlawful attacks on civilians will not be ignored,” the letter said.
Jordan Chandler Hirsch is staff editor at Foreign Affairs.