Christian Aid calls for international force to protect Palestinians as fears
grow of Israeli invasion of Occupied Territories
July 24, 2001

Christian Aid today backed growing calls for an international force to
protect Palestinian civilians, following the fresh build up of Israeli
troops around the West Bank.

"The Israeli army has moved tanks, armoured vehicles and infantry into the
settlement of Gilo, which overlooks Beit Jala, near Bethlehem," said Nader
Abu Amsha, director of the Christian Aid-funded YMCA Rehabilitation Centre
in Beit Sahour. The centre provides rehabilitation and counselling for
Palestinian children disabled and traumatised by the conflict.

"They have been attacking us from three directions with helicopter gunships
the worst attacks for months," said Mr Amsha. "People are terrified, much
of Beit Jala has been evacuated as people are expecting the Israelis to
attack or reoccupy at any moment".

Palestinian fears are given credibility in a report in the latest edition of
Jane's Foreign Report which draws on an executive summary of an Israeli
military plan to invade the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The paper, said to be written by Israeli deputy chief of staff
Brigadier-General Moshe Ya'a'on, is titled: The Destruction of the
Palestinian Authority and Disarmament of all (Palestinian) Armed Forces,
presented to the Israeli cabinet on 9 July 2001.

It envisages a month-long military operation executed by a combined force of
30,000 Israeli paratroopers, infantry and armoured brigades. It estimates up
to 300 Israeli and thousands of Palestinians casualties. It suggests that
the Palestinian Authority would be destroyed and that leader Yasser Arafat
would be forced to flee Palestinian territory.

It also acknowledges that any invasion might engender the sending of an
international peace force to protect Palestinians but that by the time it
arrived, it would be presented with a fait accompli.

Christian Aid and its Palestinian partners are therefore urgently calling
for an international protection force to be dispatched to the Occupied
territories at once.

Mustafa Barghouthi, President of Union of Palestinian Medical Relief
Committees, also funded by Christian Aid, said: "Palestinians need
international protection - 42 Palestinians have been killed and more than
200 injured and 160 houses demolished since the so-called cease-fire began.

"The occupation never really ended, Palestinians only ever controlled 18% of
the West Bank.  And now this movement of troops demonstrates Israel's
gradual re-invasion of areas under Palestinian control."

Roger Riddell, Christian Aid's international director, said: "These Israeli
troop incursions into Palestinian territory have been continuing for some
time but in the past few days they have seriously upped the ante.  There is
now a desperate need to stabilise the situation."

Christian Aid is calling for:

A neutral, international force to be sent to the region now.

Renewed talks based on  'land for peace',

The implementation of UN resolutions demanding the withdrawal of Israeli
forces and settlers from the Palestinian territory they illegally occupy
under international law.
 
 

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and EU foreign ministers are also
calling for some form of international observers to safeguard Palestinian
civilians.

Christian Aid unequivocally condemns violence on all sides.
 

ENDS

Christian Aid can offer Mustapha Bourgouti for telephone interviews from the
West Bank. Please contact press officer Dominic Nutt on 020 7523 2427, 07720
46 76 80 or, out of hours, 020 8968 9917.

You can also speak to Christian Aid's Israel/Palestine programme office Sue
Turrell on 020 7523 2066 or, out of hours, 020 8556 6896