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Amnesty Accuses Israel, Palestinians of Crimes Against Humanity - 2003-05-29


In its annual report issued this week, the human-rights group Amnesty International condemns abuses by Israel and by Palestinian militants.

Amnesty International says that some of Israel's military actions in Palestinian areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip constitute what it describes as, war crimes.

The group also says that attacks against Israelis by Palestinian militants, including suicide bombings, are crimes against humanity.

The statements are contained in the group's annual report, which covers the year 2002, the second full year of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

Amnesty says that last year at least 1,000 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces, "most of them unlawfully."

In addition to killing Palestinians, the report accuses Israeli forces of destroying Palestinian property, obstructing Palestinian medical teams, and torturing Palestinians. All of these activities, the report classifies as war crimes.

The organization uses the same term to describe the Israeli army's use of Palestinians as human shields, the practice of forcing ordinary Palestinians to proceed ahead of Israeli soldiers in confrontations between the soldiers and Palestinian militants.

Some Palestinians have been killed or wounded by Palestinian militants during such operations.

Israel's foreign ministry has rejected the findings of the report as unbalanced.

In a statement, the ministry said Israel took great care in order to balance the requirements of international humanitarian law and the need to protect human rights, and the need to take steps against Palestinian terrorism.

The Amnesty report also accused the Palestinian Authority of carrying out and encouraging terror attacks against Israelis.

But the report laid most blame on Palestinian militant groups, such as Hamas, which operate outside official channels.

The report says, Palestinian armed groups killed more than 420 Israelis, at least 265 of them civilians during 2002. Amnesty described the deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians by Palestinian groups as crimes against humanity.