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Stop Killing Civilians

July 25, 2006

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel

Stop Killing Civilians

The current bloody conflict on the northern border between Israeli and Hezbollah has resulted in the loss of many innocent lives on both sides and damaged thousands of people. As men and women of the medical field, it is our responsibility to warn against the continuing physical and mental damaged inflicted upon the civilian populations and call for the immediate cessation of violence in our area. The Israeli Air Force’s massive bombing campaigns and the Hezbollah’s firing of rockets on Israel illicit fear and only increase the hatred between the two nations. The Katyusha Rockets on Israel, on one hand, and the aerial raids on Lebanon, on the other hand, lead to mental anguish, extensive damage to utilities and buildings and turned thousands of Lebanese to refugees in their own nation.

Rescue teams and medical establishments did not escape this vicious cycle and several incidents were recorded in which medical personnel and clinics serving the civilian population were harmed. For example, on Tuesday, July 18th, 2006, an Israeli aircraft hit a Lebanese truck carrying medication from Beirut to one of the villages in the south and the driver was killed. Ziv hospital in Zfat also sustained a direct hit as a result of the Katyusha attack on Monday, July 17th 2006, which damaged its northern wing and caused several patients and staff members to suffer panic attacks.

We also share the pain and fear in light of the tragic results of Hezbollah’s rocket attacks on Israel and its harmful effects on Israeli citizens. There is no doubt that the State of Israel has the right and the obligation to defend the lives of its citizens. While exercising this right, however, Israel must exhibit a certain degree of proportionality and avoid harming civilians and civilian infrastructure. The fact that the IDF’s actions exact a high toll both in lives and on civilian infrastructure evinces that Israel’s response is not proportional. The damage to infrastructure, homes and medical establishments is considered to be a grave violation of international law and the international humanitarian law, especially in light of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians during time of war.

While the eyes of the world and the media are focused on the war unfolding in the north, Israel continues to harm, whether by force or through its policies, civilians and civilian institutions in the Occupied Territories, especially in the Gaza Strip, and in doing so causes an even worse humanitarian crisis and inflicts both physical and mental damage, especially on civilians. One cannot accept the continual firing of Kassam Rockets or terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, but they do not justify the manner of the Israeli response.

The damage to Israeli, Lebanese and Palestinian cdivilians is painful, detrimental and unnecessary. The families of those injured and killed will carry the pain with them. In the future, we will have to consider whether we did enough to prevent this unnecessary suffering, so why not now?

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel calls upon all sides to remove the civilians from the battle zone-there is no goal that can justify killing civilians and/or wreaking such havoc upon infrastructure.

We call upon the Israeli government to show responsibility toward all residents of the area-in Israel, Gaza and Lebanon, and to initiate a cease-fire while relying upon the active involvement of the international community to create the necessary conditions that will facilitate the restoration of security to the area in general and to the residents of the north and south in particular.

In the Occupied Territories, we call upon Israel to immediately stop the aerial attacks that lead to loss of civilian lives and severely harm the civilian population. We call for a cease-fire that will also put an end to the firing of Kassam Rockets and terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians. Both sides must enter into negotiations because in the long term, only the end of the occupation can guarantee the lives of civilians and the future of both nations.

ENDS

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