Thursday, September 14, 2006

A step beyond the David vs. Goliath syndrome, which is as it should be


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Hizbullah Attacks on Israeli Civilians Amount to War Crimes
Amnesty International Releases New Report Charging Hizbullah Deliberately Targeted Israeli Civilians

(Washington, DC) -- Amnesty International (AI) today charged in a new report that Hizbullah committed serious violations of international humanitarian law, amounting to war crimes, in its deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians during the recent conflict.

During the month-long conflict, Hizbullah fired nearly 4,000 rockets into northern Israel, killing 43 civilians, seriously injuring 33 others and forcing hundreds of thousands of civilians to take refuge in shelters or flee. Around a quarter of all rockets were fired directly into urban areas, including rockets packed with thousands of metal ball bearings. An estimated ten percent of the rockets carried war heads, packed with thousands of ball bearings. Once these indiscriminate rockets struck, the ball bearings sprayed out, inflicting death and injury for 300 meters or more.

"Actions speak louder than words," said Larry Cox, Amnesty International USA's Executive Director. "Though Hizbullah denies any policy of endangering and targeting Israeli civilians, it used Katyusha rockets packed with thousands of metal ball bearings to maximize harm to innocent civilians. Targeting civilians is a war crime -- there's no gray area."

In meetings with Amnesty International, Hizbullah argued that its rocket attacks on northern Israel were a reprisal for Israeli attacks on civilians in Lebanon and were aimed at stopping such attacks.

Amnesty International's briefing includes evidence of:

  • Hizbullah's firing of some 900 inherently inaccurate Katyusha rockets into urban areas in northern Israel in clear violation of the principle of distinction between civilian and military targets under international law;

  • Hizbullah's use of modified Katyusha rockets packed with metal ball bearings, designed to inflict maximum death and injury, with one such rocket killing eight railway workers;

  • Statements from Hasan Nasrallah and other senior Hizbullah leaders that the group intended to target civilians as a form of reprisal, violating the prohibition on direct attacks on civilians as well as the prohibition on reprisals against the civilian population;

  • The flight of civilians from northern Israel and the existence of shelters preventing a higher death toll than the 43 civilian fatalities recorded.

"These findings show that Hizbullah clearly committed war crimes and the perpetuators must be brought to justice," said Marty Rosenbluth, Amnesty International USA's Country Specialist for Israel and the Occupied Territories.

Rosenbluth recently returned from the region on an Amnesty International fact-finding mission. (Read his diaries from the mission.)

Amnesty International is calling for a comprehensive, independent and impartial inquiry to be urgently established by the United Nations into violations of international humanitarian law by both sides in the conflict. It should examine, in particular, the impact of this conflict on the civilian population and should be undertaken with a view to holding individuals responsible for crimes under international law and ensuring that full reparation is provided to the victims.

Further aspects of the war, including charges that Hizbullah used Lebanese civilians as a cover and attacks by Israeli forces that resulted in heavy civilian casualties, will be addressed in future publications.

Read the report, Under Fire -- Hizbullah's Attacks on Northern Israel.

Curt Goering, AIUSA's Senior Deputy Executive Director for Policy and Programs, who led an AI mission to Lebanon, and Rosenbluth are available for comments and interviews.

Contact: AIUSA Media Office, 202.544.0200 x302


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