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Hezbollah rocket attacks on Israel probably war crimes: Human Rights Watch

[JURIST] Islamic militant group Hezbollah [US State Dept. backgrounder; BBC backgrounder] violated international humanitarian law [ICRC backgrounder] and likely committed war crimes [press release] by firing the rockets that have killed at least a dozen Israelis [Israel MFA report], whether the attacks were targeted at civilians or merely indiscriminate, Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] (HRW) [advocacy website] said Tuesday. Most of the rockets were a type that can't be aimed precisely and have limited range, and the design of the warheads - which contained ball bearings that become shrapnel on impact - indicate an intent to harm civilians and their property. "Hezbollah's use of warheads that have limited military use and cause grievous suffering to the victims only makes the crime worse," said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of HRW's Middle East and North Africa division. HRW quoted Dr. Eran Tal-Or, director of an emergency room in Haifa, Israel, as saying that

In my medical opinion, they [these rockets] are supposed to injure as many people as possible. If you wanted to bring down a building, you would make a weapon with a heavier blast. And you wouldn't bother with the balls inside that don't do much harm to buildings; just to people.
Meanwhile other observers suggest that Israel's use of US-provided weapons in response to the rocket attacks may run afoul of US law. The US Arms Export Control Act [text] requires that weapons be transferred "to friendly countries solely for internal security [or] for legitimate self-defense." Inter Press Service News Agency Tuesday quoted Professor Stephen Zunes [faculty profile] of the University of San Francisco saying that the act obligates the US to suspend arms transfers to Israel because the Israeli air strikes on Lebanese population centers and infrastructure "clearly go beyond legitimate self-defense." Those attacks have killed more than 200 people since last week. IPS has more.

In other law-related developments in the growing Middle East conflict [JURIST news archive]:
  • In an interview [recorded video] with the BBC Tuesday, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora [BBC profile] called on Hezbollah to free two Israeli soldiers while criticizing Israel's response to their capture as violating the doctrine of proportionality [CFR backgrounder]. Siniora accused Israel of "opening the gates of hell and madness" on Lebanon. BBC News has more.

  • Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting reported Tuesday that the head of Iran's Judiciary [official website], Seyed Mahmoud Hashemi-Shahroudi [Wikipedia profile], has described Hezbollah's rocket attacks as "worthy and encouraging." Iranian state media quoted him as saying that Israel is encouraged by "unlimited and illogical US support" and that the UN response to the crisis has been "too weak, too little." IRIB News has more.

  • The Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) [advocacy website] has warned that a major humanitarian crisis is looming [FIDH press release] in Lebanon and northern Israel, noting that bombings of the international airport in Beirut and the country's major roads, bridges and harbors are preventing humanitarian aid from reaching Lebanese citizens. The FIDH also called on Hezbollah to permit the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) [official website] to examine the two captured Israeli soldiers and urged it to treat all detainees in a humane manner, while urging the UN Security Council [official website] to adopt a resolution that would bring an end to the conflict.

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