* News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty
International*

18 July 2001
MDE 15/066/2001
124/01

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  months
to their own villages or homes  by  curfews  and  closures  is  a
totally unacceptable response to  the  violence  of  a  few,  the
organization said.

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  Hensmans,
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  dozens  of
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  person  was
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
prohibited.

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.

Background

Since the beginning of the intifada in  late  September  2000  at
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.