Fares Akram
The New York Times
March 30, 2011 - 12:00am

A Palestinian human rights group in Gaza took the unusual step this week of condemning the building and storage of anti-Israel rockets in densely populated areas, a practice that has led to injuries and deaths of civilians.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights said that it had investigated recent rocket explosions and found that locally produced projectiles had fallen on homes in Gaza or exploded in factories where they were made or stored. Shrapnel severely wounded several people, including a 22-year-old woman and her 7-month-old baby.

It called on the Hamas government, which controls Gaza, to investigate “and take measures to protect Palestinians and their property.” It added that “members of the Palestinian resistance continue to store explosives or to treat such explosives in locations close to populated areas.”

“This poses a major threat to the lives of the Palestinian civilians,” it said.

Israel has long accused Hamas and other groups of endangering Palestinian civilians by carrying out militant activities in densely populated areas.

Hamdi Shaqura of the rights center said conducting such investigations was risky in Gaza. Militant groups generally deny responsibility. He noted that the Hamas Interior Ministry Web site blamed Israel for the landing of what were locally produced rockets on Palestinian targets.

On Wednesday, a Palestinian militant was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza, days after armed groups here announced a commitment to an unofficial cease-fire with Israel.

A rocket fired from a drone hit two militants on a motorbike in the southern city of Rafah, wounding them both, and one later died in the Rafah hospital, doctors there said. The two were members of Islamic Jihad’s armed wing, which has fired dozens of mortar shells and missiles at Israel recently. The Israeli military said they were part of a squad that launched rockets at southern Israel a day earlier.

Also Wednesday, Hamas police officers broke up a small demonstration by youths calling for an end to the split between Gaza and the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority holds sway. Recent efforts by the authority to reconcile with Hamas have so far led nowhere.


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