Mark Regev, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, said: “We faced a very specific problem in that Hezbollah adopted a very deliberate and premeditated strategy to embed itself among the civilian population.”
The rights organization, though, said there was no basis to the Israeli claim.
In an earlier report Human Rights Watch also accused Hezbollah of indiscriminately firing rockets against Israeli civilians during the war.
A HRW news conference in Beirut last month was canceled because of threats by Hezbollah.
|Hezbollah is accused of killing 43 Israeli
civilians in rocket attacks [GALLO/GETTY]
More than 1,000 Lebanese were killed in the 34-day conflict between July and August last year after Hezbollah staged a cross-border raid, killing three Israeli soldiers and capturing two others who are still being held.
Kenneth Roth, HRW executive director, said at a press conference in Jerusalem that, while Israel did not appear to have had a deliberate policy of killing civilians, there was “a pattern of killing that amounts to indiscriminate fire”.
Forty-three Israeli civilians and 12 soldiers died as a result of rocket attacks by Hezbollah, HRW said, while about 250 Hezbollah fighters were killed, according to Roth.
Hezbollah party officials have said “about 150” of its fighters died, without providing an exact figure. Israel claimed to have killed around 300.
HRW acknowledged that Israel warned civilians that aircraft were going to bomb villages, at one point announcing a 48-hour cease-fire to let civilians leave.
But the air strikes that followed targeted civilians as well was militants, the report said.
Israel’s army said its forces distinguish “at all times” between civilians and combatants.
The findings in the 247-page report are based on the investigation of 510 civilian deaths, including at least 300 women and children, visits to more than 50 Lebanese villages, and more than 350 interviews.