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Rockets fired by Palestinian militants from Gaza City, are intercepted by the Israeli Iron Dome defence missile system on Oct. 7.MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images

Irwin Cotler is Canada’s special envoy for preserving Holocaust remembrance and combatting antisemitism, the international chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, and the former minister of justice and attorney-general of Canada.

Noah Lew is a special adviser to Mr. Cotler and a director of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights.

On Saturday, the Jewish sabbath and holiday of Sukkot­ – a celebration of peace and our common humanity – Hamas launched a horrific terrorist assault on Israeli civilians. Hundreds of innocent Israelis have been murdered, thousands injured, and an untold number kidnapped and taken hostage. Perhaps not so ironically, Friday also marked the 50th anniversary of the criminal aggression against Israel on Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.

Social media is awash with barbaric scenes: the corpse of a young Israeli woman being desecrated and paraded through the streets of Gaza; the intentional bombing of ambulances; the cold-blooded slaughter of innocent Israeli men, women, children and elderly alike; the anguished cries of family members searching for their loved ones.

The forerunner of what was to come were the sirens that went off early Saturday morning, heralding thousands of indiscriminate rocket attacks targeting Israeli civilians, which foreshadowed the terrorist acts to follow.

These heinous attacks are the latest example of Hamas’s flagrant and persistent violations of international law, which have continued unabated over the entirety of their repressive rule. They are representative of a cluster of six war crimes that Hamas systematically commits.

First, the deliberate targeting of civilians – including indiscriminate rocket attacks – is in and of itself a war crime, as Palestinian Authority officials have themselves acknowledged.

Second, Hamas consistently launches these attacks from within civilian areas and civilian structures, such as apartment buildings, mosques, schools and hospitals. This too is a war crime, and under international law, Hamas bears legal responsibility for any resulting harm to those civilians.

Third, the misuse and abuse of humanitarian symbols for purposes of launching attacks is a war crime, called the perfidy principle. Examples include using an ambulance to transport fighters or weapons, or combatants disguising themselves as doctors in a hospital.

The fourth crime stems from the Genocide Conventions, which prohibits direct and public incitement to genocide. Hamas leaders’ incendiary incitement is what set the stage for these gruesome attacks.

Fifth, the recruitment of children into armed conflict is a war crime, and a core Hamas tactic – it goes hand in hand with their incitement and indoctrination tactics.

Sixth, and finally, when attacks on civilians are systematic and widespread as a matter of state policy – as this latest assault so clearly was – they are not only war crimes, but crimes against humanity.

This most recent aggression, constituting both war crimes and crimes against humanity, has shocked the global conscience. It has unmasked and exposed the racist and terrorist nature of Hamas. For too long, the international community has remained willfully blind to the true nature of this regime.

Palestinian civilians are also victims of Hamas. They suffer daily under its repressive, authoritarian regime. Money intended for humanitarian aid – for building schools, hospitals, and other vital infrastructure – is instead used for the rockets, tunnels and other weapons that Hamas uses to perpetrate its terrorist aggression. It is important to remember that the Hamas regime, and its genocidal antisemitic agenda, is not representative of the Palestinian people.

When politicians describe Hamas members as their “friends,” or provide exculpatory defences for their criminality, they become enablers and accomplices. When Western academics and journalists describe Hamas terrorists as freedom fighters, this is what they are supporting. When democratic governments turn a blind eye to the Iranian regime’s widespread sponsorship of Hamas and other terror groups, this is what they are condoning.

Justice and accountability for Hamas’s continuing heinous aggression, as well as for all those who continue to aid and abet it, is long overdue.

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