Hizbullah must immediately stop firing rockets into civilian areas in Israel, Human Rights Watch said Saturday.
"Lobbing rockets blindly into civilian areas is without doubt a war crime," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "Nothing can justify this assault on the most fundamental standards for sparing civilians the hazards of war."
"Most of the attacks appear to have been directed at civilian areas and have hit pedestrians, hospitals, schools, homes and businesses," the humanitarian organization's website stated.
Since July 12, when Hizbullah captured two IDF soldiers and killed eight, Human Rights Watch researchers have been documenting the war's impact on civilians in Israel and Lebanon, interviewing the witnesses and survivors of attacks, as well as doctors, emergency workers, police, military and government officials.
"Hizbullah must stop using the excuse of Israeli misconduct to justify its own," said Roth.
The organization's Web site recognized that northern Israel had come to a virtual standstill because of Hizbullah's rockets, which were "exacting an enormous human and economic toll."
"Under international humanitarian law - also known as the laws of war - parties to an armed conflict must not make the civilian population the object of attack, or fire indiscriminately into civilian areas. Nor can they launch attacks that they know will cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects that exceeds the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated. Such attacks constitute war crimes," the site explained.
"Several medical and educational institutes have sustained damage from Katyusha attacks." Human Rights Watch researchers visited hospitals in Nahariya and Safed after they were hit.
At Nahariya Hospital, rockets had been landing near the hospital since July 12, a hospital spokesperson said. "There are no military bases around here; nothing military at all," he said. "I believe they know perfectly well they are firing at a hospital."
"In the absence of troops or military assets inside, hospitals must never be attacked," Human Rights Watch said. "Deliberately attacking them is a war crime."