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UN Official: Peacekeepers Needed in Palestinian Territories - 2002-03-27

A U.N. special investigator is calling for international peacekeepers to be sent to the Palestinian territories to reduce the level of violence. In a report to the U.N. Human Rights Commission, the investigator blames both the Israelis and Palestinians for the escalating violence. But he says Israel's military occupation is at the root of the problem.

The U.N. special investigator, John Dugard, describes a wide-range of human rights abuses he says have been committed by Israeli forces. These include targeted assassinations of Palestinian militants, the demolition of houses, and the expansion of Israeli settlements.

Mr. Dugard says the impact of the violence is particularly traumatic for children. He says many Palestinian children have been arrested for throwing stones at soldiers. He says evidence from private human rights groups shows that some children have been subjected to inhuman treatment such as being blindfolded, denied food or sleep, and, on occasion, assaulted. "In my report, I have called on the Israeli authorities themselves to conduct an independent investigation into the treatment of children, and I have suggested that they should appoint a judge to make surprise visits at interrogation centers and prisons in order to ensure that children are properly treated," he said.

Mr. Dugard is calling for an international observer force to monitor the situation in the Palestinian territories. He says he cannot see any alternative to such a force.

The U.N. investigator says one reason the force is needed is that the Palestinians clearly cannot control radical groups within their territory who want to blow themselves up in Israel. "I think the only way to remedy the situation is to introduce an international presence," he said. "This will control both sides. It may not be perfect, but I am sure that it will at least reduce the level of violence and provide the right climate for negotiations. I think that is what is essential."

The Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Yaakov Levy, calls the investigator's report biased. He blames the Palestinians for the breakdown in peace negotiations and for the escalating violence. "Israel has suffered continuous violent attacks, daily shootings, roadside ambushes, Molotov cocktails thrown against her citizens, bombs placed in a city's buses, marketplaces, cafes and restaurants set ablaze by suicide bombers," he said. Mr. Levy says Israel has been compelled to act in self-defense and will continue to do so.