Top human rights group says both Israel and Hamas likely committed war crimes in the May conflict that killed over 270 people

Israel iron dome gaza rockets
Israel’s Iron Dome interceptors seen on the left as rockets are launched from Beit Lahia, northern Gaza, on May 14, 2021. Anas Baba/AFP via Getty Images
  • Human Rights Watch says Israeli airstrikes during the May conflict may amount to war crimes.
  • The accusation comes after the rights group on August 12 said Hamas attacks were likely war crimes.
  • The May conflict left 260 Palestinians and 12 Israelis dead.
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The Israeli military’s airstrikes on high-rise towers in Gaza City in May may have violated the laws of war and amount to war crimes, Human Rights Watch said on Monday.

“The apparently unlawful Israeli strikes on four high-rise towers in Gaza City caused serious, lasting harm for countless Palestinians who lived, worked, shopped, or benefitted from businesses based there,” Richard Weir, a crisis and conflict researcher at the NGO, said in a statement. “The Israeli military should publicly produce the evidence that it says it relied on to carry out these attacks.”

In response to the report from the Human Rights Watch on Monday, the Israeli military accused Hamas of using the buildings for military purposes, claiming the strikes were of “particularly high military value.”

“The assets Hamas tried to hide inside these multistory buildings … were often of particularly high military value, and successfully striking them was of strategic importance,” the Israeli military said, citing a report from the Associated Press.

The accusation comes in the group’s now third report on the conflict, following an August 12 report from Human Rights Watch that said rocket and mortar attacks by the Palestinian militant group Hamas likely violated the laws of war and could amount to war crimes.

“Palestinian armed groups during the May fighting flagrantly violated the laws-of-war prohibition on indiscriminate attacks by launching thousands of unguided rockets towards Israeli cities,” Eric Goldstein, the group’s acting Middle East and North Africa director, said in that release. “The failure of both Hamas authorities and the Israeli government to provide accountability for alleged war crimes by their forces highlights the essential role of the International Criminal Court.”

The May conflict left 260 Palestinians and 12 Israelis dead, making it the region’s worst violence since 2014.

In late May, Israel and Hamas agreed to a “mutual and simultaneous” cease-fire after 11 days of fighting, a Hamas official told Reuters at the time. The conflict was prompted by “by an array of complex factors, with Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories at the heart of the tensions,” Insider’s Azmi Haroun and John Haltiwanger reported.