April 30, 2007
Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah
c/o Ali Fayyad, Director
Consultative Center for Studies and Development
Dear Sayyid Nasrallah,
Human Rights Watch is writing to you today with respect to the conflict that occurred between Hezbollah and Israel in July-August 2006. As an independent and impartial organization dedicated to monitoring and promoting compliance with international human rights and humanitarian law, Human Rights Watch published extensively on Israels violations of its obligations under humanitarian law in its bombardment of Lebanon, as well as on Hezbollahs violations in its rocketing of Israel.
Those publications include Fatal Strikes: Israels Indiscriminate Attacks against Civilians in Lebanon (attached to this letter, and online in Arabic at http://www.hrw.org/arabic/reports/2006/lebanon0806/), published August 3, 2006, and Hezbollah Must End Attacks on Civilians (attached, and online in Arabic at http://hrw.org/arabic/docs/2006/08/05/lebano13922.htm), published August 5, 2006. All of our publications on the 2006 conflict can be viewed online at http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/israel_lebanon/. We also published a report on the 1993 conflict, Civilian Pawns: Laws of War Violations and the Use of Weapons on the Israel-Lebanon Border (online at http://hrw.org/reports/1996/Israel.htm), published May 1, 1996; and on the 1996 conflict, Operation Grapes of Wrath: The Civilian Victims (online at http://www.hrw.org/reports/1997/isrleb/), published September 1, 1997.
Human Rights Watchs specialized personnelincluding humanitarian law, weapons, and battle damage assessment expertshave long-standing expertise in evaluating the conduct of military operations. Human Rights Watch researchers carried out extensive studies of the wars in Yugoslavia (published as Civilian Deaths in the NATO Air Campaign) and Iraq (published as Off Target: The Conduct of the War and Civilian Casualties in Iraq), among others.
To supplement the reports we have already issued, Human Rights Watch is now preparing more comprehensive reports on the Israel-Hezbollah conflict of last summer.
The information we seek from Hezbollah will be an important element in our assessment of Hezbollahs conduct. Human Rights Watch is able to investigate, on the ground in Israel, civilian casualties, the destruction of civilian infrastructure, and the presence of military targets nearby. Only Hezbollah officials, however, can explain exactly what military objective they were targeting during a particular strike and any precautions they took to prevent civilian casualties during that strike. Such information will help us in our task of measuring compliance with the legal requirement that warring parties, in directing their operations, distinguish at all times between the civilian population and combatants, and between civilian objects and military objectives.
We have already sent a letter similar to this one to Israeli authorities, requesting information on Israels targeting strategies during the conflict.
What follows are questions that we wish to ask Hezbollah that are derived from our field research and our monitoring of Hezbollahs public positions.
We hope very much that Hezbollah will reply to these questions, so that our final report can reflect Hezbollahs positions and information that it considers relevant to the subject matter. All pertinent information that we receive by May 11 will be reflected in our final report.
We have first several general questions, and then a series of questions connected to specific incidents that we have researched.
I. General Questions
- Does Hezbollah consider itself bound, in its armed conflict with Israel, by the laws of war (international humanitarian law), as defined by the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols?
- In a number of statements made during and after the conflict, Hezbollah claimed to have hit military targets inside Israel far more frequently than has been reported. Hezbollah attributed this discrepancy to Israeli censorship. Please provide details about the dates, locations, and targets of Hezbollahs strikes on military objects inside Israel.
- On October 19, Human Rights Watch issued a report that Hezbollah fired cluster munition rockets into Israel that landed in civilian areas. As we wrote in our October 31 letter to Hezbollah (copy attached), we met with villagers who on July 25 had been injured by a rocket that contained submunitions in Mghar, in the eastern Galilee. Based on our examination of the ordnance we concluded that Hezbollah fired into Mghar Chinese-made Type-81 rockets containing 39 MZD-2 or Type-90 submunitions. Our letter sought Hezbollahs response to our evidence that Hezbollah had fired these submunitions during the conflict. On December 26, Human Rights Watchs Beirut director, Nadim Houry, raised the subject of our letter and our hope for a reply with Ali Fayad, head of the Hezbollah-affiliated Consultative Center for Studies and Development. We have still received no oral or written reply to this letter. Can you provide one?
- Hezbollah rockets hit three hospitals, Safed Hospital (July 17), the Western Galilee (Nahariya) Hospital (July 28), and Mazra Mental Hospital (July 29). Did Hezbollah intentionally target these facilities? If so, why? If not, what were the intended targets? More than 45 rockets landed within 500 meters of Rambam Hospital in Haifa during the course of the conflict, according to the police department of that city. Although none hit the hospital itself, was Hezbollah targeting Rambam Hospital? If so, why? If not, what was the intended target?
- Rockets hit the city of Kiryat Shmona more than any other city in Israel, according to official Israeli statistics. 1,017 rockets landed in or near the city, 248 of them inside built-up areas, according to those statistics. Was Hezbollah targeting the city of Kiryat Shmona itself? If so, why? If not, what were the intended targets? What precautions, if any, were taken to minimize the risks to Israeli civilians when directing fire at these targets?
- Our field research indicates an effort by Hezbollah to strike refineries and storage tanks in the port of Haifa, such as the Delek oil refineries, which were hit by rockets on July 16. Is it correct that Hezbollah targeted refineries and storage industrial sites in the Haifa and HaKrayot industrial zones? If so, do you consider these objects to be legitimate military targets for attack under international humanitarian law and, if so, why?
- After two rockets landed in Haifa on August 6, killing two elderly Arabs and seriously wounding two others, you said on al-Manar television, To the Arabs of Haifa, I have a special message. We have grieved and we are grieving for your martyrs and wounded people. I beg you and turn to you asking you to leave this city. I hope you will do so. Over the past period, your presence and your misfortune made us hesitant in targeting this city, despite the fact that the southern suburbs [of Beirut] and the rest of the heart of Lebanon were being shelled, whether Haifa was being shelled or not. Please relieve us of this hesitation and spare your blood, which is also our blood. Please leave this city. Is this statement urging Arabs to evacuate Haifa an indication that Hezbollah wished to minimize Palestinian-Israeli civilian casualties but not Jewish-Israeli civilian casualties? If not, how should this statement be interpreted?
II. Specific Incidents
What follows is a list of incidents involving civilian casualties and civilian infrastructure that we have investigated in Israel. The information, based on our field investigation of the sites and witness accounts, includes the date and location of the rocket attack and the civilian toll it caused. Please note that the letter we sent to the IDF includes a request for information on 97 separate strikes that accounted for over 500 deaths in Lebanon.
For each of the incidents listed below, we would welcome the following information from Hezbollah:
a) The specific objective of the attack and the target selection and review process.
b) Any specific precautions taken to ensure that the object of the attack was a military objective, if it was, and to avoid indiscriminate and/or disproportionate civilian casualties.
c) Efforts taken, if any, to select a method of attack and weapon to limit indiscriminate and/or disproportionate civilian casualties.
d) Any post-strike battle damage assessment undertaken to review the results of the particular strike and the results of that assessment.
- July 12 (morning)Rockets landed in or near the border communities of Zarit and Shlomi, injuring two civilians.
- July 13 (morning)A rocket landed on the roof of an apartment building in downtown Nahariya, killing Monica Seidman.
- July 13 (about 3 p.m.)A rocket landed in Majd al-Krum, across from the home of Aslan Hammoud, 18, who was injured.
- July 16 (about 9:30 a.m.)A 220 mm rocket containing steel spheres hit the roof of a railyard in the Haifa port area, killing eight workers.
- July 17 (about 2:30 p.m.)A 220 mm rocket containing steel spheres hit a building in Haifas Bat Galim neighborhood, situated in the western port area, near Rambam hospital. The rocket damaged the two top floors at 16 Nahalal Street and wounded six civilians.
- July 17 (about 11p.m.)A rocket landed on the grounds of Safed Hospital, injuring several patients, breaking windows and causing minor damage to the hospital.
- July 18A rocket landed near a civilian shelter in Nahariya, killing Andrei Zlanski, 37.
- July 19Two rockets containing steel spheres hit the city of Nazareth. The first landed at about 4:45 p.m. in an alley in the Safafra neighborhood, killing two brothers, Rabi and Mahmoud Taluzi, aged eight and four respectively. The second landed less than one minute later, hitting a downtown auto dealership and causing extensive damage but no injuries.
- July 21A 220 mm rocket hit a road east of Haifa. The rocket killed Shimon Glicklich, 60, who was driving his car.
- July 21 (about 10:45 a.m.)In Kiryat Ata, just east of Haifa, a 220 mm rocket killed Habib Awad, 48, of Iblin, when it hit the carpentry workshop where he was working.
- July 25 (afternoon)A rocket struck the home of Doua Abbas, 15, in the town of Mghar, killing her.
- July 25 (about 2:30 p.m.)A rocket containing cluster munitions landed in the yard between houses belonging to the extended family of Jihad Ghanem in western Mghar, injuring his son Rami, 8, his brother Ziad, 35, and his sister Suha, 33.
- July 28 (about 5:30 p.m.)A rocket hit Nahariya (Western Galilee) Hospital, extensively damaging the ophthalmology wing on the fourth floor but causing no injuries. Several rockets landed close to the hospital, including one in the parking lot.
- July 29 (about 3 p.m.)A rocket loaded with steel spheres hit a ward of the Mazra Mental Hospital in the village of Mazra, causing damage but no injuries. The following morning, five or six more rockets landed on or near the hospital grounds.
- August 2 (about 1 p.m.)A rocket landed in Kibbutz Saar near Nahariya, inflicting fatal shrapnel injuries on David Lalchuk, 52.
- August 3A rocket landed in a residential neighborhood of Akko, killing Shimon Zaribi, 44; his 15-year-old daughter Mazal; Albert Ben-Abu, 41; Ariyeh Tamam, 50; and Ariyehs brother Tiran, 39.
- August 3 (about 4 p.m.)A rocket landed slightly west of Tarshiha, killing civilians Shanati Shanati, 17, Amir Naeem, 18, and Muhammad Fa'ur, 17.
- August 3 (about 3:30 p.m.)A rocket hit the third-floor bedroom of the Morani family in the village of Meilia, injuring a child, Nura Morani.
- August 4 (about 5 p.m.)A rocket hit a street of Majd al-Krum, killing Baha Karim, 32, and Muhammad Subhi Mana, 23.
- August 4 (about 2 p.m.)A rocket hit a home in the town of Mghar, killing Manal Azzam, 27, in a neighboring home.
- August 5A rocket hit the home of the Juma family in the border village of Arab al-Arramshe, killing Fadia Juma, 60, and her two daughters, Sultana, 31 and Samira, 33.
- August 6 (evening)A 220 mm rocket containing steel spheres hit the building housing the archives of the Arabic language Communist party newspaper al-Ittihad in Haifa, killing Hana Hammam, 62, and Labiba Mazawi, 67.
- August 10 (about 10:40 a.m.)A rocket containing steel spheres hit the home in Deir al-Assad of Mariam Assad, 26, and her son Fathi Assadi, 5, killing both of them, and severing the leg of Fathis three-year-old brother Faris, and of Fathis grandmother Fatemeh, 49.
- August 13 (afternoon)a rocket containing steel spheres hit HaMiflasim public elementary school in the Dalet district of Kiryat Yam, causing damage but no injuries.
Human Rights Watch realizes that it will require a significant commitment to provide the information we have requested, but we feel that the effort will be a crucial contribution to a realistic understanding of the Israel-Hezbollah conflict.
Thank you for your consideration. We hope that you will provide responses to the preceding questions by May 11, so we can take them into account our final report.
We would welcome a meeting to discuss these questions, as well as any other issues you wish to raise.