On 3 February 2010, the Hamas government submitted a 52-page report to the UN in advance of the debate in the General Assembly on the report of the Goldstone Fact-finding Mission. The Hamas report discusses, among other things, the measures the government has taken to implement the mission's recommendations and the investigations it has carried out regarding breach of international law committed by its forces during Operation Cast Lead, and provides clarifications relating to attacks from within the Gaza Strip against civilians and civilian objects in Israel.
According to the Hamas government, its consistent position has been that, in accordance with international law and the principles of Islam, only military objects may be attacked and it is absolutely forbidden to attack civilians and civilian objects. Palestinian armed groups are also committed to this principle, the report states. However, it adds, since these groups are not an organized army with technologically advanced weapons, when a military target is determined, it is not possible to ensure that the fire will not go awry and strike civilians.
The Hamas government adds that the main objective of the rocket fire is political, and that the fire is a limited and modest response to Israeli aggression. The rocket fire, it claims, is intended to transmit a message that they intend to act to end the occupation and protect themselves. Also, it adds, there is a clear difference between rocket fire as an expression of resistance, which every weak side does in response to aggression, and control of the results of the launched rockets due to deficient technological capability.
These claims are baseless, both with respect to the facts and to the provisions of international humanitarian law.
First, the vast majority of attacks were intentionally aimed at civilian objects in Israel, with the declared purpose of striking them. Israelis living near Gaza suffered for many years from the ongoing rocket fire, and during that time members of Hamas and of other armed groups expressly stated that the rocket fire was intended to strike civilians. In addition, to the best of B'Tselem's knowledge, these communities and the areas adjacent to them did not contain legitimate military objects against which attacks could ostensibly be made.
Second, the armed groups' imprecise weapons and lack of advanced technological capability only aggravate the severity of their actions. The prohibition imposed by international humanitarian law does not apply only to attacks aimed at civilians, but also forbids the use of weapons that are insufficiently precise to distinguish between civilian objects and military objects. The use of such weapons is completely forbidden, even when the side using them has no alternative means.
Third, rocket fire that is intended only to transmit a “political message” and that is “limited and modest” also contravenes international humanitarian law and basic morality. For many years, Israelis in the area lived in constant fear, not knowing where the next attack would strike, which made their lives intolerable. Imposing terror on a civilian population is absolutely forbidden, and the claim that the firing was minimal and symbolic demonstrates the perpetrators' shameful disregard for human life.
The Hamas government has the obligation to conduct an effective and independent investigation to investigate the claims that armed Palestinian groups who operated in the Gaza Strip during the operation attacked Israeli civilians, and to prosecute the persons responsible for violation of international humanitarian law. The Hamas government must also investigate the claims that these groups harmed and endangered the lives of Palestinians, and prosecute everyone responsible for those acts.