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Military Response Fuelling The Cycle Of Violence

Israel/Occupied Territories: Military Response To Human Rights Crisis Is Only Fuelling The Cycle Of Violence

* News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International

3 April 2002 MDE 15/030/2002 58/02

Israel's military action characterised by flagrant human rights abuses against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories is fuelling a spiralling cycle of violence, Amnesty International said today, repeating its call for an international human rights monitors to be deployed with the aim of protecting Palestinian and Israeli civilians.

"Amnesty International first called for human rights monitors to be deployed in Israel and the Occupied Territories in November 2000. Now, nearly 18 months later and after the killing of at least 1200 Palestinians and more than 300 Israelis -- the vast majority civilians -- the international community remains paralysed."

During the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) reoccupation of the town of Ramallah, which started with an attack on President Yasser Arafat's offices on 29 March, the IDF imposed a curfew. They occupied scores of houses and apartment blocks, confining up to 60 occupants to one or two rooms. With electricity, water and telephones cut residents of Ramallah have been living in increasingly difficult conditions with diminishing stocks of food and water. There have been reports of looting from occupied apartments. The IDF have wantonly damaged houses, cars, and buildings. Offices of human rights organizations have been forcibly entered by the IDF who ransacked filing cabinets and smashed computers.

As the IDF has declared Ramallah and Bethlehem closed military areas, impeding outside observers, journalists, the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross from entering, it is becoming difficult to verify reports of possible extrajudicial executions including of people under arrest. However, it appears that five Palestinian policemen were extrajudicially executed. They were shot dead at close range after they had been wounded on Friday. Amnesty International has documented previous cases of killing of wanted men, a practice referred to by the IDF as "death kill verification".

The IDF has frequently fired at ambulances and medical workers and prevented them from coming to help the wounded many of whom have lain bleeding for up to three hours. At least 14 medical workers have been arrested; nine, including the President of the Palestinian Red Crescent, Yunis al- Khatib, were released without questioning. At least twenty-five bodies of those who have died had to be buried in the grounds of Ramallah Hospital and others have been buried elsewhere because, under the curfew, their families have been unable to collect them and hold proper burials.

More than 1,000 Palestinians have been arrested by the IDF over the past five days. One Palestinian who was released said he was kept handcuffed and lying down in an unfinished building exposed to the elements, and was hooded to go to the toilet. He also reported that, depending on the IDF unit guarding them, prisoners were beaten at times.

Amnesty International condemned the horrific suicide bombings, targeted at civilians including medical personnel, carried out by Palestinian armed groups, stating that nothing can justify the deliberate killing of civilians. The organization also expressed extreme concern at the killings in many parts of the Occupied Territories of Palestinians accused of "collaboration ".

"However, such flagrant abuses do not excuse the human rights violations Israel is carrying out against Palestinians throughout the Occupied Territories," Amnesty International said. "The logic of revenge and reprisals has brought only misery and insecurity. Israel must recognise that respect for fundamental human rights is both a legal obligation and a way out of the cycle of blood-letting."

Amnesty International welcomed Saturday's UN Security Council resolution and Mary Robinson's plea for international observers. Amnesty International supports her proposal that the Commission on Human Rights send a visiting mission to the area.

"The international community is making strong statements. It must also take action," Amnesty International said. "For the sake of Palestinian and Israeli civilian lives, it is time that the international community put pressure on the Israeli government to accept international human rights monitors in Israel and the Occupied Territories."

With regard to the crisis in Israel and the Occupied Territories Amnesty International believes that:

The IDF and Israeli authorities should cease violations of human rights and humanitarian law, including unlawful killings and excessive use of lethal force; destruction of Palestinian homes and property; closures of towns and villages; arbitrary arrests; torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of Palestinians; hindering access of medical professionals and medical care; hindering access of international humanitarian organizations, human rights organizations and journalists.

Palestinian armed groups must cease targeting Israeli civilians and end unlawful killing of Palestinians. Palestinian authorities should condemn all killings targeting civilians and make maximum efforts to stop them.

Any workable cease-fire or peace must address the fact that this conflict is fuelled by human rights abuses. A cease-fire which fails to address the human rights of all cannot bring security.

The international community should act immediately to deploy international observers with a strong, transparent human rights monitoring component.

Unlawful killings must be investigated and those who have carried out or ordered them, whether from the Israeli authorities, Palestinian authorities or armed groups must be brought to justice.

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