Amnesty Raps Palestinian Attacks on Israelis
Wed Jul 10, 8:20 PM ET
By Nidal al-Mughrabi
GAZA (Reuters) - Amnesty International Thursday condemned Palestinian suicide
attacks on Israeli civilians and urged the Palestinian Authority ( news -
web sites) to prosecute those responsible.
Amnesty has accused the Israeli army of human-rights abuses against Palestinians
fighting occupation. Israel has denied this, accusing Amnesty of having an
anti-Israeli agenda and not doing enough to criticize suicide bombings. Amnesty
took aim at Palestinian militants in its seventh report on the human-rights
situation in the two territories since the September 2000 eruption of the
Palestinian uprising for an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip
( news - web sites).
"(We) urge the Palestinian Authority to arrest and bring to justice those
who order, plan or carry out attacks on civilians," said the report, presented
at a news conference in Gaza City, a stronghold of militant groups.
The report said 350 Israeli civilians had been killed in attacks staged by
Palestinian nationalist and Islamic groups over the past 21 months. Sixty
of the Israeli dead were children, the youngest five months old.
At least 60 others were above age 60, the report added.
"Whatever the cause for which people are fighting, there can never be a justification
... under international law ... for direct attacks on civilians."
Abdel-Salam Sayed Ahmed, Middle East deputy director of the London-based
rights group, said it contacted representatives of Palestinian militant factions
before issuing the report.
"We told them that your right to resistance (against occupation) does not
give you a passport to attack civilians and we asked them to stop and denounce
such actions," he said.
MILITANTS REBUFF AMNESTY
Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior leader of the Islamic militant group Hamas which
has spearheaded a suicide bombing campaign against Israel since interim peace
accords were signed in 1993, told Reuters that it rejected Amnesty's appeal.
"We reiterated our right to self-defense. This is not a war between two armies and should not be viewed as such."
"I believe the communique ... deliberately ignores the legitimate motives
of our struggle," he said. "It is a communique with bias toward Israel."
The Palestinian Authority has repeatedly urged militant groups to stop blowing
up civilians inside Israel, saying such attacks tarnish the image of Palestinians
abroad and set back their cause for an independent state in the West Bank
Palestinian officials deny Israeli accusations that they have sponsored militant
violence. They also say Palestinian security services have been so decimated
by Israeli army incursions that they are incapable of reining in militants.
The Amnesty report said Palestinian militant groups offered a variety of
reasons for targeting Israeli civilians -- from retaliating for the Israeli
army's killing of Palestinian civilians to fighting an "occupying power."
At least 1,438 Palestinians and 548 Israelis have been killed since the uprising flared after peace talks froze.