21 November 2002 Edition

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Amnesty accuses Israel of war crimes

Amnesty International says there is clear evidence that acts committed by the Israeli Army during 'Operation Defensive Shield' were war crimes.

The human rights watchdog levelled the charges in its report into the actions of the Israeli Army in Jenin and Nablus in March and April of this year.

The report, released on 4 November, documents serious human rights violations by Israeli forces, including unlawful killings; torture and ill treatment of prisoners; destruction of homes, sometimes with residents inside; blocking of ambulances and the denial of humanitarian assistance to Palestinian people; and the use of Palestinian civilians as human shields.

Amnesty International submitted most of the individual cases included in the report to the Israeli Army for comment following meetings in May but despite promises to answer the cases, no response has yet been forthcoming.

In Jenin and Nablus, the Israelis blocked access for days to medical assistance and in addition they shot at ambulances and fired warning shots around them while ambulance drivers were harassed or arrested. The wounded lay for hours unattended or were treated in homes and the dead lay in the street or in houses for days. Several people died in circumstances where lack of access to medical care may have caused or hastened their deaths.

The report went on to say that Palestinians not involved in fighting were killed as a result of disproportionate use of force and the failure of the Israeli Army to take adequate measures to protect those not involved in the fighting. In Jenin refugee camp and Jenin city more than half of the 54 Palestinians who died as a result of the incursion between 3 and 17 April appear not to have been involved in fighting. Among those killed were seven women, four children and six men aged over 55. In Nablus, at least 80 Palestinians were killed by the Israelis, including seven women and nine children, between 29 March and 22 April.

In Hawasashin and neighbouring areas of Jenin refugee camp, 169 houses and 374 apartments were bulldozed, mostly after the fighting had ceased. Ten people were killed and six others on the hospital lists of those killed in Jenin were recorded as being crushed by rubble. Over 4,000 people were made homeless by the actions of the Israelis.

"The Israeli authorities have failed in their responsibility to bring to justice the perpetrators of serious human rights violations. War crimes are among the most serious crimes under international law and represents offences against humanity as a whole and bringing the perpetrators of these crimes to justice is the concern and the responsibility of the international community."

Amnesty also accused the Israeli government of blocking, "all attempts to end human rights violations and install a system of international protection by introducing monitors with a clear human rights mandate in Israel and the Occupies Territories have been undermined by the refusal of the government of Israel and supported by the USA."

"It is imperative that the international community stop being an ineffective witness of the grave violations that take place in Israel and the Occupied Territories. Meaningful, urgent and appropriate action is long overdue," concluded Amnesty International.

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