RED CROSS SAYS JEWISH SETTLEMENTS ARE EQUAL TO WAR CRIMES

             [Reuters - 17 May 2001]:
             The head of the international Red Cross delegation to Israel
             and the Palestinian territories said Thursday that Jewish
             settlements in the occupied West Bank and Gaza were a war
             crime under humanitarian law.

             "The policy of settlement as such in humanitarian law is a war
             crime," Rene Kosirnik of the International Committee of the Red
             Cross (ICRC) told a news conference. Some 200,000 Jews live
             in 145 settlements scattered among the three million
             Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, lands captured
             by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.

             Kosirnik called the news conference to discuss the Geneva
             Conventions as they applied to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
             eight months into a bloody Palestinian uprising against Israeli
             rule. He said the law of occupation applied also in Arab East
             Jerusalem, which Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967
             conflict and annexed in a move not recognized internationally.

             "The transfer, the installation of population of the occupying
             power into the occupied territories is considered as an illegal
             move and qualified as a 'grave breach.' It's a grave breach,
             formally speaking, but grave breaches are equal in principle to
             war crimes," Kosirnik said.

             An international inquiry led by former U.S. Senator George
             Mitchell last week recommended a freeze on settlement
             expansion. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has agreed not to build
             new settlements, but wants to expand existing ones based on
             what he calls "natural growth" - a policy rejected by
             Palestinians.