Rights group hammers Israel for journalists’ deaths in Gaza

Human Rights Watch charges IDF violated rules of war in raids on media facilities; army says it acts within the law

The Gaza media center being hit by an Israeli airstrike on Monday. (photo credit: AP/Hatem Moussa)
The Gaza media center being hit by an Israeli airstrike on Monday. (photo credit: AP/Hatem Moussa)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli army attacks on journalists and media facilities in the Gaza Strip during last month’s military operation violated the laws of war, Human Rights Watch said in a release Thursday.

Two Palestinian cameramen were killed and at least 10 media personnel were wounded in the offensive, which was launched after weeks of rocket attacks on Israel.

The Israeli government has said each of the targets was a legitimate military objective.

In its statement, the New York-based rights group said it found no support for that claim.

“Just because Israel says a journalist was a fighter or a TV station was a command center does not make it so,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, the group’s Mideast director.

The Israeli military said in a statement that it “acts in accordance with the laws of armed conflict, despite the ongoing deliberate violations and abuse of these laws by the terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip.”

It said it was investigating the events mentioned in the report and would respond further once the inquiry was completed.

The Jerusalem-based research institute NGO Monitor was quick to lambaste the HRW report.

“This is yet another example of HRW’s systematic lack of credibility and its biased approach to Israel,” said Professor Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor. “Calling a military attack ‘unlawful’ is a serious charge, which should not be made lightly. But HRW cannot substantiate these allegations.”

In a statement the organization lashed into HRW for making assumptions about the IDF commanders who ordered the attacks and for wrongly saying that collateral civilian deaths make an attack unlawful.

“As with most of the NGO’s claims in previous conflicts, HRW’s ‘evidence’ is without substance. The organization presents no proof whatsoever that the targets involved were not being used for military operations or that the ‘journalists’ were not Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters,” noted NGO Monitor legal adviser Anne Herzberg. “Just because HRW claims something is a war crime does not make it so. The ease with which some media outlets continue to quote HRW’s long discredited allegations, without any independent analysis or due diligence, is also disturbing.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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