In its harshest condemnation of Israel since last summer’s war, Human Rights Watch charged that most of the Lebanese civilian casualties came from “indiscriminate Israeli air strikes,” according to a report to be released Thursday.

In a statement issued before the report’s release, the human rights organization said there was no basis to the Israeli claim that civilian casualties resulted from Hezbollah guerrillas using civilians as shields. Israel has said it attacked civilian areas because Hezbollah set up rocket launchers in villages and towns.

More than 1,000 Lebanese were killed in the 34-day conflict last summer, which began after Hezbollah staged a cross-border raid, killing three Israeli soldiers and capturing two others. They are still being held.

Israeli warplanes targeted Lebanese infrastructure, including bridges and Beirut Airport, and heavily damaged a neighbourhood in Beirut known as a Hezbollah stronghold, as well as attacking Hezbollah centers in villages near the border. Hezbollah fired nearly 4,000 rockets at northern Israel, killing 119 civilians. In the fighting, 40 Israeli soldiers were killed.

Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth said in the statement: “Israel wrongfully acted as if all civilians had heeded its warnings to evacuate southern Lebanon when it knew they had not, disregarding its continuing legal duty to distinguish between military targets and civilians.”

He added, “Issuing warnings doesn’t make indiscriminate attacks lawful.” (MORE)


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