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Why Hamas is denying it targeted civilians in Israel

Ahead of a Feb. 5 deadline to respond to war crimes charges in the UN-sponsored Goldstone report, Hamas said it had meant to hit military targets last winter. Human Rights Watch disagrees.

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Ahead of a looming deadline for Israel and Hamas to respond to war crimes charges in the UN-sponsored Goldstone report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) hit back today at a claim made by Hamas earlier this week that its fighters did not commit war crimes in its three-week war with Israel last winter. Instead, said Hamas, its fighters struck civilian areas in Israel “by mistake” when launching rockets at the country’s military installations.

“Hamas’s claim that rockets were intended to hit Israeli military targets and only accidentally harmed civilians is belied by the facts,” the HRW statement said. "Civilians were the target,” the statement continued, “and deliberately targeting civilians is a war crime.”

The Hamas claim was revealed in an internal document obtained by the Associated Press. Local media say it is part of a larger report Hamas plans to send to the United Nations (UN) later this week, ahead of a Feb. 5 deadline imposed by the UN on both Israel and Hamas to provide evidence they are carrying out independent investigations into allegations of war crimes.

Failure to comply may result in the UN taking up war crimes proceedings against the two at the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

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