Rights group: Israel violated laws of war in Gaza

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JERUSALEM — A U.S.-based rights group said Israel violated laws of war in a series of airstrikes it conducted during an eight-day military operation last November against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.

Human Rights Watch said it counted 14 airstrikes in which there didn’t appear to be a valid military target, and four others targeting militants, but which used disproportionate force.

HRW said the attacks killed more than 40 Palestinian civilians.

Israel’s air assault came after weeks of increased rocket fire by Palestinian militants in Gaza toward Israeli communities.

In the past, Israel has blamed Hamas for civilian casualties, saying the group uses schools, mosques and residential areas for cover while carrying out attacks. But cases of mistaken identity or faulty intelligence have also been known to result in civilian casualties.

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