August 3, 2006
Human Rights Watch

Israeli War Crimes in Lebanon

This report documents serious violations of international humanitarian law (the laws of war) by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in Lebanon between July 12 and July 27, 2006, as well as the July 30 attack in Qana. During this period, the IDF killed an estimated 400 people, the vast majority of them civilians, and that number climbed to over 500 by the time this report went to print. The Israeli government claims it is taking all possible measures to minimize civilian harm, but the cases documented here reveal a systematic failure by the IDF to distinguish between combatants and civilians.

Since the start of the conflict, Israeli forces have consistently launched artillery and air attacks with limited or dubious military gain but excessive civilian cost. In dozens of attacks, Israeli forces struck an area with no apparent military target. In some cases, the timing and intensity of the attack, the absence of a military target, as well as return strikes on rescuers, suggest that Israeli forces deliberately targeted civilians.

The Israeli government claims that it targets only Hezbollah, and that fighters from the group are using civilians as human shields, thereby placing them at risk. Human Rights Watch found no cases in which Hezbollah deliberately used civilians as shields to protect them from retaliatory IDF attack. Hezbollah occasionally did store weapons in or near civilian homes and fighters placed rocket launchers within populated areas or near U.N. observers, which are serious violations of the laws of war because they violate the duty to take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian casualties. However, those cases do not justify the IDF's extensive use of indiscriminate force which has cost so many civilian lives. In none of the cases of civilian deaths documented in this report is there evidence to suggest that Hezbollah forces or weapons were in or near the area that the IDF targeted during or just prior to the attack.

By consistently failing to distinguish between combatants and civilians, Israel has violated one of the most fundamental tenets of the laws of war: the duty to carry out attacks on only military targets. The pattern of attacks during the Israeli offensive in Lebanon suggests that the failures cannot be explained or dismissed as mere accidents; the extent of the pattern and the seriousness of the consequences indicate the commission of war crimes. . . .


"U.S.-Backed Israel Pounds Lebanon, Thousands Flee," The Wisdom Fund, July 13, 2006

[The purpose of the ICTI would be to investigate and prosecute Israeli war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide against the Peoples of Lebanon and Palestine--just as the ICTY did for the victims of international crimes committed by Serbia and the Milosevic Regime throughout the Balkans.--Francis A. Boyle, "A War Crimes Tribunal May be the Only Deterrent to a Global War,", August 1, 2006]

"Fatal Strikes: Israel's Indiscriminate Attacks Against Civilians in Lebanon," Human Rights Watch, August 3, 2006

[I am told that the Israelis informed George W Bush in advance of their plans to "destroy" Hezbollah by bombing villages in southern Lebanon. The Americans duly informed the British.--John Kampfner, "Blood on his hands," New Statesman, August 7, 2006]

Justin Raimondo, "The New Munich: Lebanon, 2006, and Czechoslovakia, 1938 - the historical parallels,", August 7, 2006

[During much of the 1980's, the United States maintained a moratorium on selling cluster munitions to Israel, following disclosures that civilians in Lebanon had been killed with the weapons during the 1982 Israeli invasion.--David S. Cloud, " Israel asks U.S. to ship rockets with wide blast," New York Times, August 11, 2006]

[Israel's assault on Lebanon was planned even before Hizbullah attacked and was aimed at driving a wedge between the different faiths that have been living in harmony in the country--Elaine Engeler, "World Council of Churches: Israel planned to destroy Lebanon," Haaretz, August 17, 2006]

[Mine-clearing teams scrambling across the region have logged 89 cluster bomb sites so far, and expect to find about 110 more. . . . Cluster bombs are permitted under international law, but UN and human rights officials claim Israel violated provisions forbidding their use in urban areas.--Declan Walsh, "Unexploded cluster bombs prompt fear and fury in returning refugees," Guardian, August 21, 2006]

VIDEO: "Ana Nogueira Investigates the Lasting Dangers of Unexploded Israeli Cluster Bombs,", August 23, 2006

[Amnesty International has accused Israel of committing war crimes by deliberately targeting civilian infrastructure in Lebanon.--"Israel accused over 'war crimes'," BBC News, August 23, 2006]

[An estimated 237,000 artillery shells were fired during the war--Zvi Zrahiya, "Lebanon Conflict Cost NIS 11.2 Billion in Military Expenses Alone,", September 10, 2006]

Meron Rappaport, "IDF commander: We fired more than a million cluster bombs in Lebanon," Haaretz, September 12, 2006

Gideon Alon, "French forces: Stop Lebanon overflights or we'll open fire," Haaretz, October 18, 2006

"Official: Israel used phosphorous bombs," Associated Press, October 23, 2006

[In 1982, it denied using phosphorous munitions on civilian areas - until journalists discovered dying and dead civilians whose wounds caught fire when exposed to air.

I saw two dead babies who, when taken from a mortuary drawer in West Beirut during the Israeli siege of the city, suddenly burst back into flames.--Robert Fisk, "Mystery of Israel's secret uranium bomb," Independent, October 28, 2006]

Steve Connor, "Phosphorus shells used in Lebanon invasion, UN says," Independent, November 8, 2006

[De-miners say up to one million unexploded cluster bombs in Lebanon will pose a threat to civilians for years.--Imogen Foulkes, "New bomb clean-up treaty begins," BBC News, November 12, 2006]

"Israeli PM says Lebanon war was pre-planned: report," Reuters, March 8, 2007

[A new report, written by a respected Israeli human rights organization, one representing the country's Arab minority, not its Jewish majority, has unearthed evidence showing that during the fighting Israel committed war crimes not only against Lebanese civilians - as was already known - but also against its own Arab citizens.--Jonathan Cook, "Evidence of Israeli 'Cowardly Blending' Comes to Light,", January 5, 2008]

Richard Irvine, "UK rewrites war crimes law at Israel’s request,", October 1, 2011

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