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Human Rights Watch: Gaza militants violated laws of war

KIRYAT MALACHI, ISRAEL - NOVEMBER 15: (ISRAEL OUT) An Israeli Zaka emergency services volunteer works in an apartment which was hit by a rocket fired by Palestinian militants, killing three people on November 15, 2012 in Kiryat Malachi, Israel. The rocket attack happened some 24 hours after the IDF targeted nearly 200 sites in the Gaza Strip, killing Ahmed Jabari, a top military commander of Hamas, in the process. (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)
Uriel Sinai

JERUSALEM Gaza militants violated laws of war by launching hundreds of rockets at Israeli civilians during last month's fighting, Human Rights Watch said in a release Monday.

The Israeli military said 1,500 rockets were fired at Israel during the eight-day offensive against Gaza militants, including the first rockets from the Gaza Strip to strike the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem areas.

The rocket attacks killed three Israeli civilians and wounded dozens. Israeli assaults killed 169 Palestinians.

"Palestinian armed groups made clear in their statements that harming civilians was their aim," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at the New York-based rights group. "There is simply no legal justification for launching rockets at populated areas."

Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, said it would comment on the report after its legal experts review it. The Israeli military did not address the substance of the report.

Last week, the New York-based group in a similar report said Israel violated laws of war in the same offensive by attacking journalists and media facilities in Gaza. Two Palestinian cameramen were killed and at least 10 media personnel were wounded in the Israeli operation.