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Hezbollah Attacks Seen as War Crime

September 15, 2006|From the Associated Press

LONDON — Hezbollah militants broke international law by firing thousands of rockets into Israel and killing dozens of civilians during the recent conflict, Amnesty International said Thursday.

The London-based human rights group called for a United Nations inquiry into what it said were war crimes by Israel and Hezbollah, but its report focused on the actions of Hezbollah fighters during the 34-day war.

The report is Amnesty International's most extensive condemnation of Hezbollah. The Shiite Muslim militant group launched about 4,000 rockets from southern Lebanon into Israel in July and August, killing at least 39 civilians.

Firing rockets into urban areas in northern Israel disregarded international laws that called for distinguishing between civilian and military targets, Amnesty International said.

"Targeting civilians is a war crime. There's no gray area," said Larry Cox, the group's executive director in the U.S.

Although Hezbollah denies targeting Israeli civilians, it fired rockets packed with thousands of metal ball bearings to maximize harm to noncombatants, Amnesty International said.

A Hezbollah legislator in Lebanon acknowledged Thursday that the group had targeted populated areas in Israel, but he said guerrillas had acted in response to Israeli attacks.

"We do not deny that we have bombarded Israeli cities, settlements and infrastructure. But this was always a reaction," Hassan Fadlallah told Al Jazeera television. "It was a natural reaction. When a state is invaded, it must defend itself."

He suspected that Amnesty International had come under U.S. and Israeli pressure to issue a report critical of Hezbollah's actions, after the group issued a similar criticism of Israel.

In a report released Aug. 22, the human rights group accused Israel of violating international law with what it termed indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks on civilian targets and infrastructure in Lebanon.

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