Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Monday accused Palestinian military units located in Gaza of violating laws of war by firing rockets into populated areas of Israel. These laws of war [HRW report] prohibit focused attacks on civilians and civilian structures or attacks that distinguish between civilians and military targets. "There is simply no legal justification for launching rockets at populated areas," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. Palestinian armed units have claimed that last November's Israeli attacks in Gaza [BBC report] provoked the firing of rockets into Israel and should excuse the Palestinian units from their acts. The rocket attacks which first launched from the Gaza Strip left three Israelis dead and at least 38 wounded. HRW urged Hamas [official website, in Arabic] the source of authority in Gaza to enforce the appropriate laws and punish the offenders.
Tension has recently increased between Israel and Palestine. Earlier this month, HRW accused Israel of war crimes [JURIST report] after the November attacks in Gaza. Also this month, the Israel government rejected the UN General Assembly resolution [JURIST report] to upgrade Palestine's UN status to non-member observer state. Last June, the United Nations addressed the limits on free speech [JURIST report] in Israel and Palestine due to the heightened political intensity in both countries. In May, an Israel military court sentenced a Palestinian protest leader [JURIST report] to 13 months imprisonment for encouraging youth to throw rocks at Israeli soldiers.