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New Amnesty Report Criticizes Palestinian Militants - 2002-07-11

The London-based human-rights group Amnesty International is criticizing Palestinian militants for what it calls their "direct attacks on civilians." Amnesty also says the Palestinian Authority is not doing enough to rein-in the extremists.

The Amnesty International report says 350 civilians have been killed since the current Palestinian "Intifada" or uprising, started almost 22-months ago.

It says most of those killed were Israeli civilians ranging in age from five-months to 90-years. And it says most of the victims were killed by suicide bomb attacks in Israel.

The Amnesty report says armed Palestinian groups "offer a variety of reasons" for targeting Israeli civilians. But it says "whatever the cause for which people are fighting, there can never be a justification for direct attacks on civilians."

It says, "civilians should never be the focus of attacks, not in the name of security and not in the name of liberty."

Amnesty calls for leaders of armed Palestinian groups to stop attacks against Israeli civilians "immediately and unconditionally." And it urges the Palestinian Authority to arrest and prosecute those "who order, plan or carry out attacks on civilians."

Palestinian Authority officials deny Israeli charges that they have in any way sponsored the violence. And they say that Palestinian security forces have been so decimated by Israeli army incursions, they are not capable of reining in those responsible.

The London-based rights group again urged the international community to help the Palestinian Authority develop an effective criminal justice system.

The Amnesty report also calls for Israel to make sure that its actions against armed Palestinian groups "comply with international human rights and humanitarian law standards."

In the past, Amnesty has condemned what it calls Israel's human rights violations against Palestinians in the occupied territories including unlawful killings, torture, arbitrary detention, and destruction of homes.

A senior leader of the Islamic militant group Hamas says the new Amnesty International report is biased towards Israel. He says the report ignores, "the legitimate motives of the Palestinian struggle."