Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Editorial Note: The
following news reports are summaries from original sources. They may
also include corrections of Arabic names and political terminology.
Comments are in parentheses.
Amnesty International Says Israel Uses Palestinians
as Human Shields
Date: 07 / 01 / 2009 Time: 23:59
Amnesty International said on Wednesday that both Israeli soldiers
and Palestinian fighters were endangering the lives of Palestinian
civilians–including by using them as human shields and by battling in
densely populated residential areas.
"Our sources in Gaza report
that Israeli soldiers have entered and taken up positions in a number of
Palestinian homes, forcing families to stay in a ground-floor room while
they use the rest of their house as a military base and sniper
position," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Middle East and
North Africa Program director.
"This clearly increases the risk
to the Palestinian families concerned and means they are effectively
being used as human shields," he said.
Both Israeli soldiers and
Palestinian gunmen are continuing to fire at each other from areas close
to civilian homes, endangering their inhabitants. Israeli forces have
bombed civilian homes and other buildings, arguing that they had been
used as cover by gunmen firing at Israeli targets, although Palestinian
fighters usually vacate the areas as soon as they have fired.
"The Israeli army is well aware that Palestinian gunmen usually leave
the area after having fired and that any reprisal attack against these
homes will in most cases cause harm to civilians–not gunmen," said
Smart. "Fighters on both sides must not carry out attacks from civilian
areas. Any such attacks are unlawful."
“The use of these tactics
at a time when armed confrontations are taking place in streets in the
middle of densely populated residential areas underlines the failure of
both sides to respect the protected status of civilians in armed
conflict,” Smart said.
He added that “it underlines, too, the
urgent need for an independent investigation into alleged abuses,
including possible war crimes, by both sides and for perpetrators to be
held to account.”
Amnesty International USA said it is not enough
for Israel to halt military operations in Gaza for three hours a day,
which will do little to stop the suffering and unfolding humanitarian
catastrophe there. The human rights organization repeated its call that
Israel, Hamas and Palestinian armed groups observe a full humanitarian
truce to respond to the needs of the beleaguered civilian population.
"A truce that lasts for a few hours a day is simply insufficient.
It's too short to address the urgent and massive needs of the civilians
who are caught in the hostilities and suffering heavy casualties," said
Curt Goering, senior deputy executive director, Amnesty International
"Israel has severely blockaded aid for nearly all of 2008.
The [Israeli military] can't let aid in for three hours and pretend that
is sufficient. Nor would a daily brief 'recess' guarantee the safety of
humanitarian workers," Goering noted.
"A three-hour respite from
the bombing understates the scale of what is happening and the need to
evacuate the wounded and provide safe refuge for civilians wishing to
flee the conflict zone. This cannot be accomplished in such a short
period of time," Goering said.
Amnesty International has
repeatedly urged Israel, Hamas, and other Palestinian armed groups to
end attacks on civilians and other violations of international
humanitarian law and to allow access to humanitarian assistance. The
organization has urged the U.N. Security Council and the international
community to ensure compliance with international law.
Tuesday's attack on a school in Jabaliya Refugee Camp, an Israeli
government spokesperson said their forces shelled the school after
Palestinian gunmen fired at them from it, but this is disputed. The
artillery strike that killed some 40 Palestinians, including children,
and wounded more than 50 others, "appears clearly to have been a
disproportionate attack," Amnesty International said in a statement.
The practice by Israeli soldiers of taking over Palestinian
civilians’ homes and holding their inhabitants as human shields while
using the house as a shooting position has been very common in the past
eight years both in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank. The use of
human shields in conflict is prohibited under the Geneva Conventions.
Palestinian families caught up in the current fighting in the Gaza
Strip report that in some cases Palestinian gunmen have agreed to vacate
areas near civilian homes without firing at Israeli forces when local
residents have objected to their presence.
In other cases, they
have refused the residents' requests and only left after firing. In
still other cases, residents say they were too scared to ask the gunmen
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