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Calls On Palestinian Armed Groups To Stop Killings

Israel / Occupied Territories / Palestinian Authority: Amnesty International report calls on Palestinian armed groups to stop civilian killings

* News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International *

11 July 2002 MDE 15/104/2002

Since the beginning of the Al-Aqsa intifada in September 2000 at least 350 civilians, most of them Israeli, have been killed in over 128 attacks by Palestinian armed groups and Palestinian individuals, Amnesty International documented in a report launched in Gaza.

The report "Without distinction: attacks on civilians by Palestinian armed groups" is the seventh major report on the human rights situation in the region published by the organization since the beginning of the intifada.

"Whatever the cause for which people are fighting, there can never be a justification for direct attacks on civilians," said Amnesty International. The victims of these attacks ranged from children as young as five months to elderly people. The oldest was Chanah Rogan, aged 90. She was killed in the bombing of a hotel at the celebration of Passover on 27 March 2002 in Netanya.

Most victims were killed by suicide bomb attacks within Israel claiming 184 victims of the 350 civilians killed. Palestinian armed groups offer a variety of reasons for targeting Israeli civilians from retaliating against Israeli killing of Palestinian civilians to fighting an occupying power. Other justifications claim that Israeli settlers are not civilians or that striking at civilians is the only way to make an impact on a powerful adversary.

Under international law there is no justification for attacking civilians. Targeting civilians is contrary to fundamental principles of humanity enshrined in international law which should apply in all circumstances at all times. Amnesty International unreservedly condemns attacks on civilians, whatever reason the perpetrators give to their action.

"Civilians should never be the focus of attacks, not in the name of security and not in the name of liberty. We call on the leadership of all Palestinian armed groups to cease attacking civilians, immediately and unconditionally," Amnesty International stressed.

The organization urges the Palestinian Authority to arrest and bring to justice those who order, plan or carry out attacks on civilians. The Palestinian Authority and Israel have a duty to take measures to prevent attacks on civilians. Such measures must always be in accordance with international human rights standards.

Amnesty International also calls on Israel to ensure that all its actions against armed groups and individuals suspected of involvement in attacks against civilians comply with international human rights and humanitarian law standards. Amnesty International calls on the international community to assist the Palestinian Authority to improve the effectiveness of its criminal justice system and its compliance with international human rights standards, in particular by offering international experts to advise on and monitor investigations into attacks against civilians and legal proceedings against those alleged to be responsible.

A growing number of Palestinians believe that targeting civilians is morally wrong. Amnesty International welcomes Palestinian and other voices who publicly condemn attacks on civilians and urges Palestinians and people around the world to appeal to armed groups to end attacks on civilians.

Background: Amnesty International has for many years documented and condemned violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by Israel directed against the Palestinian population of the Occupied Territories. They include unlawful killings, extra-judicial executions, torture and ill-treatment, arbitrary detention and collective punishments such as punitive closures of areas and destruction of homes.

Palestinian armed groups and Palestinian individuals who may not have been acting on behalf of a group are estimated to have killed more than 350 civilians since the 29 September 2000. Among the victims were over 60 children and 64 of the people killed were older than 60 years of age.

Of the 128 lethal attacks against civilians studied by Amnesty International in this report 25 were committed by people who had strapped explosives to themselves and died in the attacks. On six other occasions civilians were killed by explosives that were planted, thrown or fired. Other incidents involved shootings and stabbing.

The great majority of attacks took place in the Occupied Territories. While there were far fewer attacks within Israel, they claimed 210 victims of the 350 civilians killed.

Armed groups reportedly claimed responsibility for about half of the lethal attacks on civilians of the 128 attacks surveyed by Amnesty International. The main groups involved were Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades (Hamas), Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLPF).

The UN General Assembly has recognized the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples against foreign occupation in the exercise of their right to self-determination and independence. However, international law requires all parties involved in a conflict to always distinguish between civilians and people actively taking part in the hostilities. They must make every effort to protect civilians from harm.


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