Human Rights Group Slams Israel for Lebanon Actions

The international human rights group Amnesty International has sharply criticized Israel for what it says were deliberate and indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets in Lebanon. Israel denied the charge.

In a lengthy report released Wednesday, Amnesty International accuses Israeli forces of deliberately striking striking civilian targets in Lebanon.

Donatella Rovra, who headed the group's mission to Lebanon, told VOA that Israel zeroed in on Lebanon's infrastructure, knowing full well that the attacks would harm civilians.

"When Israeli forces decide to bomb and destroy power plants, electricity, water networks, roads, bridges, when they decide to bombard and reduce to rubble entire neighborhoods, then obviously those decisions are made to go ahead with those attacks with the full knowledge of what the consequences will be for the civilian population," she said.

After two Israeli soldiers were kidnapped by the Lebanon-based militia Hezbollah, Israel launched a wave of attacks from land, sea, and air in a bid to destroy the group. For a month, Israel pounded Lebanon, and Hezbollah fired thousands of Katyusha rockets into northern Israel. Some 1,000 civilians are believed to have died and much of Lebanon's infrastructure was destroyed in the conflict.

Rovra says Amnesty International is calling for an impartial, independent inquiry into both Israel's and Hezbollah's actions in the conflict.

"Those who made those decisions to go ahead with certain attacks, to use certain methods, obviously must be held accountable for their actions. And that is why we're calling for an international investigation to investigate both the attacks committed by Israel and by Hezbollah," said Rovra.

Responding to the Amnesty report on British television, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Orly Gil denied that civilians were deliberately targeted.

"No, there was no deliberate policy of targeting any civilian targets," she said. "The only policy that we did have was to defend our northern borders, our northern villages, which [were] attacked by a few thousand of Katyushas, of rockets and all kinds of other munitions. Amnesty did also have a mission also to Israel, and we showed them all these kinds of missile and ammunition and so on. And I must say that from the very little time I had to look on their report, I didn't see any trace of that."

Amnesty's Rovra says Amnesty condemns Hezbollah's attacks as well as Israel's, and that Hezbollah actually takes credit for its actions.

"Our position on Hezbollah attacks is extremely clear," she said. "The rockets that they use, Katyushas, as are other kinds of rockets, are indiscriminate because they cannot be directed and therefore are indiscriminate by nature. And as such, they are entirely unlawful. Therefore, every single attack committed by Hezbollah, every single rocket launched by Hezbollah into Israeli towns and villages is an unlawful act."

A ceasefire went into effect last week, but Israeli troops remain inside southern Lebanon while the United Nations organizes international peacekeeping force.