18 July 2001
Amnesty International called today on the international community
to act promptly to end the Israeli policy of closures in the West
Bank and Gaza.
The confinement of more than three million people for 10
to their own villages or homes by curfews and closures is a
totally unacceptable response to the violence of a few, the
Amnesty International welcomed the European
Union's call on
Monday 16 July for international observers. But the international
community must not wait any longer before acting to unblock what
has become an intolerable situation, said the organization.
The delegates from Amnesty International, Philippe
Director of Amnesty International's Belgian (Francophone)
Section, and Elizabeth Hodgkin, researcher, returned yesterday
from a fact-finding visit to Israel and the Occupied Territories
and travelled widely around the area.
Almost every road to every village we passed south of Jerusalem
was blocked by mountains of earth or concrete blocks. The main
north-south road between Nablus, the area's largest city, and
Jenin is empty of vehicles other than army vehicles for many
stretches. Army checkpoints consistently turn back Palestinian
vehicles. In a number of cases, Palestinians requiring urgent
medical attention have died," said Philippe Hensmans.
Such a situation should no longer
be tolerated by the
international community, said Amnesty International. Closures
constitute the collective punishment of a whole people.
In all cases the closures deny the right to freedom of movement
and suffocate economic life. They are not effective in preventing
violent attacks against Israelis, as the latest suicide bombings
have shown, the organization said.
Delegates also visited areas of the West Bank where
homes of Nawaje'a Bedouin groups had been bulldozed in reprisal
after one settler had been killed.
In the vast majority of encampments, not a single
accused of the murder and arrested. Yet the Israeli Defence Force
bulldozed the tents and stone shelters, blew up the caves where
many groups live, and even filled wells with rubble.
In Rafah and Khan Yunis more than 70 homes have been demolished
since March, most of them one-storey buildings of refugees who
lost their homes in 1948.
Israel is a High Contracting Party to the Geneva Conventions. Yet
its actions towards the Palestinians, regarded as protected
persons under the Conventions, is in breach of the Fourth Geneva
Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time
of War. Article 33 states clearly that:
"No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has
not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all
measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited....
Reprisals against protected persons and
their property are
In a joint letter to political and UN leaders on 6 July, Amnesty
International and Human Rights Watch reiterated their calls for
international observers to monitor compliance with human rights
and international humanitarian law as a means of enhancing
protection for civilians.
Since the beginning of the intifada in late September
least 480 Palestinians have been killed, most of them unlawfully,
by Israeli security forces when their lives and the lives of
others were not in danger.
More than 130 Israelis have been killed, most of them civilians
deliberately targeted in suicide bombings or drive-by shootings
by Palestinian armed groups and individuals.
Human rights abuses by opposition groups
can never justify
abandonment of human rights principles by a government.