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Human Rights Group Accuses Suicide Bombers of War Crimes - 2002-11-01

A leading international human rights group says in a report issued Friday that Palestinians who carry out suicide bombings are guilty of war crimes. The report, issued by Human Right Watch, also says Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian leadership have not done enough to stop attacks against Israeli civilians.

The 170-page report says the Palestinian leadership bears much of the responsibility for the suicide attacks.

The report did not directly link the Palestinian Authority to the bombings but criticizes its leadership for not taking action against those responsible, especially in 2001, when they were most capable of doing so.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said in an Associated Press interview conducted on Thursday that suicide attacks against civilians are immoral. But he and other Palestinian officials rejected the Human Rights Watch report Friday, saying it is the Israeli occupation that leads to violence.

Human Rights Watch says those who carry out or plan suicide bombings are war criminals, not martyrs, and that attacks against civilians are prohibited by international law. And, it says, even though Jewish settlements in the occupied territories are illegal under international law, the settlers are still entitled to protection as civilians.

The report singles out several leaders of militant Palestinian groups, including Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmad Yassin and Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Shalah, as individuals who should face criminal investigations.

Human Rights Watch has criticized the Israeli army in the past for abusing the rights of Palestinian civilians. Friday's report says that Israeli attacks that have killed Palestinian civilians are not justification for suicide bombings.

Since the Palestinian uprising began just over two years ago, there have been an estimated 80 suicide bombings in Israel that have claimed the lives of some 294 Israelis.