Highlighted from the following report:
These are just six of more than 130 attacks since 29 September 2000 in which civilians were killed by members of Palestinian armed groups and by Palestinian individuals who may not have been acting on behalf of a group. (2) In many attacks, perpetrators deliberately targeted people like five year-old Danielle Shefi and 79 year-old Tuvya Viesner, knowing without any doubt that their victims were not members of the Israeli armed forces. Other perpetrators attacked large groups of people in a busy street, a bus, a café, a hotel or a market, knowing that many if not most of the victims would be civilians.
Amnesty International condemns unreservedly direct attacks on civilians as well as indiscriminate attacks, whatever the cause for which the perpetrators are fighting, whatever justification they give for their actions. The organization has repeatedly condemned attacks on civilians in reports and statements and in meetings and other communications with armed groups that have attacked civilians in Israel and the Occupied Territories and in countries around the world. (3) Targeting civilians and being reckless as to their fate are contrary to fundamental principles of humanity which should apply in all circumstances at all times. These principles are reflected in international treaty law and in customary law.
Attacks against civilians - on the basis of international humanitarian law, in this report, the term is used to describe:
''Terrorism'' - this term is commonly used to describe violent acts by armed groups, particularly those in which civilians are targeted. Amnesty International does not use the term because it does not have an internationally agreed definition and in practice is used to describe quite different forms of conduct. States and commentators describe acts or political motivations that they oppose as ''terrorist'', while rejecting the use of the term when it relates to activities or causes they support. This is commonly put as ''one person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter''. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on terrorism has noted that ''the controversial issue of terrorism has...been approached from such different perspectives and in such different contexts that it has been impossible for the international community to arrive at a generally acceptable definition to this very day. (10) Recent attempts at the United Nations to finalize a comprehensive international convention on ''terrorism'' stalled in part because of disagreements between governments about the definition.
An Overview of Attacks On civilians
''At 4pm I went to eat something at the café. I only spent 15 minutes on the meal, and I went to the desk. I remember a potato fell on to the floor and I bent and then there was the explosion. I fell on my back. I regained consciousness after five minutes. I saw that I was burned all over my body and face. I looked to my right and left and saw many people lying on the ground. I can't remember being evacuated by the medical teams. For two weeks I was in intensive care. Such acts are not human acts, they have no fear of God.'' (Aviad Lasa, victim of a suicide bombing at the Netanya fruit and vegetable market, Israel on 19 May 2002. Three civilians were killed and 50 injured. Note of interview with Amnesty International.)
Palestinian armed groups and Palestinian individuals who may not have been acting on behalf of a group are estimated to have killed more than 350 civilians since 29 September 2000.(11) The figure excludes the killing of around 30 Palestinians by Palestinian armed groups, individuals and Palestinian Authority forces because they were suspected of ''collaborating'' with Israeli authorities.
The great majority of civilians were killed in direct or indiscriminate attacks on civilians and civilian objects (defined above): the perpetrator targeted someone who they knew was not a member of the armed forces, or attacked a group of people among whom there were clearly many civilians. Amnesty International examined reports of incidents in which civilians were killed between 29 September 2000 and 31 May 2002 and estimates that 128 of these involved attacks on civilians and civilian objects. (12) Three hundred and thirty eight civilians were killed in the attacks. An overview of these 128 attacks is provided below.
The youngest victim was Yehuda Shoham who was five months old when he was killed by a rock thrown through the windscreen of his family's car near the Israeli settlement of Shilo in the West Bank on 5 June 2001. Avia Malka was nine months old when she was killed by two men who shot and threw grenades at cars and pedestrians in Netanya on 9 March 2002. Shalhevet Pass was 10 months old when she was shot by a sniper on a hill opposite the entrance to Avraham Avinu Israeli settlement in Hebron on 26 March 2001. In total, 12 of the victims were aged nine or younger and 49 others were under 18.
Sixty four of the people killed were older than 60. The oldest was Chanah Rogan, aged 90, killed in the bombing of a hotel at the celebration of Passover on 27 March 2002. Of the civilians killed in the attacks, 123 were female and 225 were male. Among the victims were non-Jewish Israeli citizens and foreigners. They include:
Eleven of the people killed were foreign workers or visitors. For example, Ling Chang Mai and Chai Siang Yang, workers from China, were among six civilians killed when a suicide bomber attacked people at a bus stop in Jerusalem on 12 April 2002.
Twenty five of the attacks against civilians were committed by people who had strapped explosives to themselves and died in the attacks. Suicide bombings were particularly lethal, claiming 184 victims. On six other occasions, civilians were killed by explosives that were planted or thrown.
Eighty eight attacks involved shootings; six people were stabbed to death; one was beaten to death and one - Yehuda Shoham, whose killing is described above - was killed by a rock.
The great majority of attacks on civilians (92) and most of the shootings (79) were in the Occupied Territories. While there were far fewer attacks within Israel (34), they claimed the majority of victims (210), reflecting the fact that 22 of the 25 highly lethal suicide bomb attacks occurred within Israel.
Armed groups reportedly claimed responsibility for about half of the lethal attacks on civilians (65) of the 128 attacks surveyed by Amnesty International. Claims were commonly made in phone calls or faxed statements to the media and in messages posted on websites. Sometimes more than one group claimed an attack. The main groups involved were: Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades (Hamas) - 23; Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade - 23; Palestinian Islamic Jihad - 11; and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) - five. The following section provides a profile of these groups.
We've been living here for over 10 years; we used to travel to work each morning and come back home, a 45 minutes drive. I worked near the airport, my wife was a nurse in the local infirmary. We always travelled freely, the road was relatively quiet. On that evening [6 August 2001] we went to buy things for the new school year in Petah Tikvah. We had five kids in the car, another at home. We were driving back at 9pm. I was driving at 80km an hour, the speed limit, listening to the radio, very relaxed. Shots were fired, it was so unexpected - I thought something had happened, then I felt wounded, I thought I must get the car stopped, I managed to get the car stopped on the road. My 15-year-old daughter was screaming, I tried calling the emergency services on the mobile. There were a lot of people, the car in front had accelerated, perhaps to get away, perhaps they were the gunmen, a lot of people stopped to help. My wife was killed. We had a hitch-hiker in the car; he was wounded in his lungs. I was paralysed below the waist. My daughter was paralysed, she's started moving one leg, she may eventually walk with crutches. The other two children came out. I came out of hospital two weeks ago.''
Steve Bloomberg, Givot Shomron Settlement, West Bank, interviewed by Amnesty International on 30 January 2002, nearly five months after the attack.
Palestinian Armed Groups
This section describes the main Palestinian armed groups that have claimed or been accused of responsibility for lethal attacks on Israeli civilians since 29 September 2000. As indicated in section 2, responsibility for some attacks has been made on behalf of other groups about which little is known. No one claimed responsibility on behalf of an armed group for many attacks; in some of these cases where perpetrators were caught or killed, it appears that they were acting on their own initiative.
The section sets out the views of various leaders or officials of the organizations to which armed groups belong and of groups themselves, as presented in personal and written communications with Amnesty International delegates, in documents published by the groups and as reported by the media. The views of members of particular groups sometimes differ.
Fatah - Tanzim - Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Fatah, headed by President Yasser Arafat, is a secular, nationalist organization which is the dominant political force of the PLO and thus of the Palestinian Authority. It has a military wing called Tanzim. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade was formed by Fatah members in late 2000 (13) but - as described below - there are conflicting views as to whether this group is controlled by Fatah leaders.
Members of Fatah have attacked Israeli soldiers and civilians in the Occupied Territories. All the lethal attacks on civilians claimed by or attributed to Fatah (excluding those claimed by or attributed to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade) have involved shootings, including shooting at occupants of cars with Israeli number-plates travelling on roads in the West Bank. The occupants of the cars have included men, women and children, among them Palestinian citizens of Israel or residents of East Jerusalem. Fatah members may also have been involved in mortar attacks on settlements in Gaza and towns in southern Israel.
President Arafat has condemned attacks on civilians on a number of occasions but it is uncertain whether his statements apply to attacks on all civilians throughout Israel and the Occupied Territories or only to attacks on civilians within Israel. A number of statements seem to cover all civilians and President Arafat and other Palestinian Authority leaders have previously spoken out against attacks on settlers. (14) However, President Arafat on 20 May 2002 presided over a meeting of Palestinian leaders who issued a statement urging ''our people and all our struggling forces to comply with its decision to refrain from carrying out any operation against Israeli civilians inside Israel [emphasis added]"even if they were in reprisal for the crimes of the occupation against Palestinian civilians.''(15) Fatah Secretary General Marwan Barghouti has stated to Amnesty International delegates that Fatah considers that Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza are not civilians because ''it is all an occupied country''. Similar statements have been reportedly made by other leaders, for example, the Palestinian Authority Minister of Social Affairs, Intisar al-Wazir, is cited as stating in a lecture at Sheikh Zayid Centre for Coordination in Abu Dhabi that "martyrdom operations" inside the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 are "legitimate because they are meant to resist occupation''. (16) Fatah's policy, as publicly displayed on its website, is that ''only when Israeli soldiers and Israeli settlers have sustained heavy casualties will the Israeli government decide it cannot, after all, afford the price of continuing the oppression of the Palestinian people''. (17)
Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade claimed its first civilian victim in February 2001 - Lior Attiah, aged 23, was shot dead near the village of Jalame on the West Bank.(18) Lior Attiah was from Afula and had gone to Jalame to pick up his car from a repair shop. Since the killing of Lior Attiah, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade is reported to have claimed responsibility for more than 20 lethal shooting and bombing attacks against civilians in the Occupied Territories and in Israel, about the same as the number claimed by Hamas. Attacks claimed by the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade include:
The Israeli government alleges that Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade is an integral part of Fatah and that President Arafat has been ''personally involved in the planning and execution of terror attacks. He encouraged them ideologically, authorized them financially and personally headed the Fatah Al-Aqsa Brigades organization.'' (19)
President Arafat has denied the Israeli allegations. President Arafat has also reportedly denied that the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade is involved in ''terrorism'' and has stated that financial assistance provided by the Palestinian Authority to its members was ''merely providing help to people who lost their jobs because of the ongoing struggle.'' (20)
Israel also alleges that Fatah Secretary General Marwan Barghouti has direct authority over the Al-Aqsa Brigades. (21) Israeli authorities arrested Marwan Barghouti on 14 April 2002 and allege that he ordered numerous attacks against Israel, including suicide bombings. (22) At the time of writing he faced the possibility of being tried before a military court, whose proceedings Amnesty International considers do not comply with international fair trial standards.
Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade members have given different accounts about their links with Fatah, some indicating that the group is an integral part of Fatah and obeys President Arafat's orders, while others state that the group acts on its own initiative.(23)
Hamas - Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades - ''Hamas'' is the Arabic acronym for Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyya, ''The Islamic Resistance Movement.'' It was formed in 1987 by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who resides in Gaza. Hamas opposes recognition of Israel, stating in its mandate that ''Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it'' and that ''Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine'' is the duty of every Muslim. (24) However, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin is reported as stating in May 2002 that he has ''in the past'' offered a truce with Israel if it withdrew from the territory it occupied following the 1967 war. (25)
Hamas runs extensive educational, welfare and religious activities
in the Occupied
Hamas claimed responsibility for the first suicide bomb attack on civilians
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and other Hamas representatives have given a number of justifications for killing Israeli civilians. Sheikh Ahmed Yassin told Amnesty International delegates in July 2001 that under international law ''we may defend ourselves against aggression by all means.'' He also stated that Hamas was ''against'' the killing of civilians, particularly women and children, but that it occurred ''by mistake or to implement an eye for an eye, a nose for a nose'' i.e. that it was legitimate as a form of reprisal. In his view, when Hamas killed Israeli children Israel was responsible because by killing Palestinian children it provokes retaliation.
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin has told Amnesty International that Hamas is willing to stop attacks on Israeli civilians if Israel stops targeting Palestinian civilians. He has also reportedly suggested an internationally sponsored agreement similar to that between Israel and Hizbullah, in which the parties committed themselves not to attack civilians.(26) Hamas official 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Rantisi has also described attacks on civilians as reprisals, stating in May 2002 for example that ''as long as Jews continue to slaughter Palestinians we will hit Haifa, Tel Aviv and Afula. If a Palestinian child is hit, we will hit back, this is the formula. (27)
Other Hamas officials are reported to have stated that ''martyrdom operations'' would continue because they are considered to be an effective and legitimate means of fighting the Israeli occupation. (28) For example, when the Palestinian Authority condemned a suicide bombing that killed civilians in Israel in March 2002, Hamas spokesperson Mahmoud Zahhar stated that the Palestinian Authority's condemnation did not represent Palestinian and Arab opinion and would not dissuade Hamas from further actions. Mahmoud Zahhar claimed that according to Islamic scholars the attack was ''the highest degree of martyrdom" and ''nobody from the Palestinian side, especially from the resistance movement or even from the Arabic people can condemn martyrdom operations justified by our scholars.(29)
Palestinian Islamic Jihad (Harakat al-Jihad al-Islami al-Filastini) - founded in 1979-80 by Fathi Shqaqi, 'Abd al-'Aziz 'Odeh and Bashir Musa, Palestinian students in Egypt. The organization has a number of factions, of which the main one is that founded by Fathi Shqaqi, who was killed by unknown assailants in Malta in 1995. The stated aim of Palestinian Islamic Jihad is the creation of an Islamic Palestinian state and the destruction of Israel.
Since October 2001, Palestinian Islamic Jihad has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks on civilians, including:
When Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Abdullah and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued a statement in May 2002 rejecting "all forms of violence," Islamic Jihad leader Abdallah al-Shami reportedly responded that the organization would ''stick to our resistance even if the whole world stands against it. (30)
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) - Abu 'Ali Mustafa Brigades - founded in 1967 by George Habash, is a group guided by ''Marxist interpretation and dialectical materialism. (31) Like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, its formal position is that it does not accept the existence of Israel in principle, though PFLP members with whom Amnesty International has spoken state that they would be prepared to accept a settlement of the conflict that involved recognition of Israel. The military wing of the PFLP is called the Abu 'Ali Mustafa Brigades, named after its Secretary General who was killed by Israeli security forces who fired a missile into his office in Ramallah on 27 August 2001.
The first reported PFLP killing of a civilian in Israel since the start of the Al-Aqsa intifada was on 27 August 2001, after the killing of Abu 'Ali Mustafa and claimed by the PFLP to be in retaliation. (32) The victim was Meir Lixenberg, father of five children, who was shot while travelling in his car in the West Bank. On 17 October 2001, the PFLP assassinated Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze'evi and claimed that it had done so in retaliation for Israel killing Palestinians, including Abu 'Ali Mustafa.
The PFLP has claimed several other attacks, including:
Following the killing of Rehavam Ze'evi, the Palestinian National Security Council banned the military wing of the PFLP within the Occupied Territories. Israel demanded that the Palestinian Authority arrest those responsible and hand them over to Israel for trial. Five PFLP members, including its Secretary General, Ahmed Sa'adat, were detained. They were subsequently held in President Arafat's compound along with him when he was put under siege by Israel in April 2002. On 24 April four of the men - Hamdi Qar'an, Bassel al-Asmar, Majdi al-Rimawi and 'Ahed Abu Ghalma - were convicted by a hastily convened Palestinian military ''field court'' of charges relating to the killing of Rehavam Ze'evi. The proceedings fell far short of international fair trial standards. Under a deal struck to end the siege, the men were detained in a Jericho prison with their detention monitored by officials from the US and UK. Ahmed Sa'adat was also transferred to the Jericho prison and has not been charged or tried. In June 2002, the Palestinian High Court in Gaza ordered his release on the grounds that there was no evidence against him. However, the Palestinian Cabinet decided to continue to detain him, stating that ''not implementing the resolution (of the court) is due to the Israeli threats of assassinating Sa'adat as there was an overt announcement to that by Sharon's spokesman.'' (34) The Palestinian Authority should respect the court's decision and release Ahmed Sa'adat from detention unless he is charged and brought to trial on recognizable criminal charges within a reasonable period. Amnesty International has also called on Israel to publicly guarantee that Ahmad Sa'adat will not be subjected to any extrajudicial measures, including assassination.
There have been conflicting reports about the PFLP's reaction to recent efforts by President Arafat and leaders of Arab countries to curb attacks on civilians. According to one account, the PFLP joined Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in dismissing the recent rejection of ''all forms of violence'' by President Mubarak, Crown Prince Abdullah and President al-Assad, stating that "our legitimate and just struggle will continue until peace is achieved in Palestine with the establishment of an independent and sovereign state." (35) However Al-Hayat has reported that a meeting of leaders of Palestinian organizations split over the issue of ''martyrdom'' operations the representative of the PFLP and other ''left-wing organizations'' were said to have opposed further such attacks, while Hamas and Islamic Jihad representatives remained committed to ''continue the resistance in all its forms.'' (36)
Material Support for Armed Groups
The main weapons used by Palestinian armed groups and individuals to attack civilians are explosives and various types of guns, including handguns, rifles and semi-automatic weapons. (37) Mortars have been used to attack settlements in the Gaza Strip and towns in Israel.
Bombs used in suicide bomb attacks have reportedly been made within the Occupied Territories using readily available chemicals and other materials. Mortars are also reported to have been constructed locally.
Many guns have reportedly been acquired locally, for example, weapons stolen from Israeli army depots or purchased from illicit Israeli small arms traders. (38) Guns have also reportedly been obtained from members of Palestinian security services. The Oslo Agreements specifically expressed the need for a ''strong police force'' to preserve security and act against ''terrorism.'' By 1996 at least 11 separate security services had been created in the Palestinian Authority and they currently have more than 40,000 armed members. When it was established, the Palestinian Authority was required to seize all illegal weapons but reports indicate that many weapons are possessed by members of armed groups and Palestinian individuals.(39)
Other armed groups in the region such as Hizbullah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command in Lebanon are also reported to be suppliers of weapons to Palestinian armed groups. (40) According to Israeli sources a large majority of these arms are transited through Jordan and Egypt before being smuggled into the Occupied Territories. (41) Jordanian and Egyptian authorities report intercepting weapons being smuggled to Palestinian armed groups and have prosecuted people in connection with such incidents. (42)
The Israeli and US governments allege that a number of governments - in particular Iran, Iraq, Libya and Syria - provide or permit the transfer of weapons and other material assistance to Palestinian armed groups.A number of Palestinian armed groups have offices in these countries but it is not clear whether the governments provide direct assistance to their military activities. In May 2002, Iraqi Vice President Yassin Ramadhan described suicide bomb attacks on Israelis as ''heroic operations of martyrdom'' and stated that Iraq supported the intifada ''by all means.''(44). The Iraqi government has not, however, specified the forms such support takes apart from providing money to the families of ''martyrs'', a term that includes people killed by Israeli forces under all circumstances as well as those killed while carrying out attacks on civilians.
The Iranian government has denied providing any assistance to groups involved in ''terrorism'' and states it provides only ''moral'' support for Palestinian armed groups, which it considers are involved in legitimate action for independence rather than ''terrorism''. According to Mohammad Ali Mousavi, Iranian ambassador to Canada, Iran has ''morally supported groups who are fighting for their independence for their being out of occupations, like Hizbullah. Terrorism is a menace of this world. We are against terrorism. We differentiate between terrorist acts [and] those legitimate rights of people who had been or are under occupation.'' (45)
In January 2002, Israeli military personnel intercepted the Karine A, a ship in the Red Sea carrying 50 tons of weapons including rockets, mortars, mines, explosives, firearms and firearms ammunition. Israel alleges that the weapons were being smuggled from Iran to the Palestinian Authority, which is only entitled to possess a restricted range of weapons under the Israeli-Palestinian agreements. Amnesty International's concern is that such weapons might come into the possession of armed groups which have attacked civilians and significantly improve their capacity to do so. The mortars, for example, were reportedly superior to the locally-made mortars which are extremely inaccurate; the range of the rockets would have put major Israeli cities within range of the West Bank. President Arafat initially stated that the Palestinian Authority had not purchased the weapons and the allegations of official involvement would be investigated. Subsequently, President Arafat reportedly wrote to US Secretary of State Colin Powell accepting responsibility ''as chairman of the Palestinian Authority, though not personal responsibility.'' (46) A senior Palestinian official, Fuad Shubaki, was detained in relation to the shipment but denies any connection. He remains detained without charge in Jericho Prison. The Iranian government denies involvement in the shipment.
The Israeli government alleges that it has found documents ''that show direct Saudi aid to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and Hamas.'' (47) The Saudi Arabian government denies supporting ''terrorism.'' It states that it provides funds to support the activities of the Palestinian Authority and of medical, welfare and other agencies (48) as well as financial assistance to families of Palestinians killed or injured during the Al-Aqsa intifada. It rejects criticism that providing money to families of suicide bombers encourages Palestinians to commit such attacks. (49)
Action by the Palestinian Authority and Israel Against Armed Groups
Attacks on civilians by Palestinian armed groups and individuals violate both domestic law and international law. Amnesty International's position is that there must be no impunity for human rights abuses by armed groups and individuals. The Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government have a duty to take measures to prevent attacks on civilians and to bring to justice those who order, plan and carry out such attacks. Such measures must always be in accordance with international human rights standards and international humanitarian law. As described below, Amnesty International considers that both the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government have acted in a manner that violates their human rights obligations.
The armed groups responsible for attacks on civilians organize their actions and recruit perpetrators primarily within areas of the Occupied Territories for which the Palestinian Authority has responsibility, as these are the areas within which the great majority of the Palestinians live. The Palestinian Authority claims that it ''has exerted a 100 percent effort ... to prevent terrorist operations'' and refers to having ''arrested hundreds of individuals suspected of violating the ceasefire,'' banning paramilitary organizations and prohibiting financial transfer to them. (50)
The Palestinian Authority has from time to time detained people who are or are alleged to be members of Hamas, the PFLP and other organizations. Palestinian armed groups have complained that the Palestinian Authority's periodic waves of arrests of their members and other actions against them have undermined their struggle against Israel. (51) However, many detentions appear to be motivated by political considerations, intended to stifle dissent and respond to Israeli and international pressure to act against armed groups rather than by a genuine concern to bring perpetrators of serious crimes to justice. While hundreds of people have been detained, some for years, they have generally been held without charge or trial. (52)
Very few people have been prosecuted for the killing of civilians and these trials have been conducted by the State Security Court, whose procedures are in flagrant violation of international fair trial standards. (53) As described in section 3, on 25 April 2002 four men were convicted in relation to the assassination of former Israeli Tourism Minister Rehevam Ze'evi on 17 October 2001.
The Palestinian Authority complains that its capacity to prevent attacks and to deal with suspected perpetrators has been seriously weakened by Israeli attacks on its security forces and installations such as police stations and prisons. The U.S. State Department, which monitors the implementation of Palestinian-Israeli agreements, agrees that has been the case but has also criticized the consistency and effectiveness of Palestinian efforts to control violence. (54) In May 2002, United Nations Middle East envoy Terje Roed-Larsen reportedly stated that the Palestinian Authority had ''failed in its duty to control terrorism'' and suggested that the United Nations could take over the Palestinian Authority's security function if its forces were unable to fulfil the role. (55)
It is not possible to determine with certainty whether or to what extent the persistence of attacks by armed groups operating within areas for which the Palestinian Authority has responsibility for security is due to weaknesses in the structure and operations of the numerous Palestinian Authority security organizations; collusion or inaction by officials sympathetic to the armed groups; the high level of popular support for the groups; or Israeli actions. There is evidence that each of these factors is a significant element of the situation.
As described in section 3, the Israeli government believes that the Palestinian Authority actively assists or permits armed groups to operate. Israeli air and land forces have reportedly entered areas that are formally the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority reportedly in order to act against alleged ''terrorists'' and ''terrorist infrastructure''. Amnesty International considers that a number of the measures taken by the Israeli authorities in the course of these incursions have involved or led to serious and widespread violations of human rights. (56)
For example, Israeli forces have:
''I and my friend Avi went on the night of 7 May to go to a club to
visit a friend who works there. We got to the club and we didn't see
our friend. After two minutes, I went right, he went left and immediately
there was a huge bang and blackness. I must have been five metres from
the terrorist who must have followed me in...I saw people lying right
and left...As I was lying there I just thought of my baby to come. They
didn't tell me that Avi had died til later. They'll let me out [of hospital]
and I'll go at once to the cemetery to Avi's grave. Now I just think
of my baby to be born; this and my wife give me strength. She comes
every day. And my family gives me a lot of support. I still have a lot
Accountability for Attacks Against Civilians under International Law
''...attacks on innocent civilians are morally repugnant and contrary to international law.''
United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, following suicide bombings against Israeli civilians, 20 May 2002.
On 11September 2001, hijackers used civilian aircraft with passengers on board to attack populated buildings in the US. Shortly afterwards, 17 Palestinian groups issued a statement condemning ''the assaults that targeted innocent civilians.'' (57) The signatories, who called themselves ''Palestinian National and Islamic Forces'', included armed groups that have claimed responsibility for attacks on civilians in Israel and the Occupied Territories. They saw no contradiction between their condemnation of the killing of civilians in the US and their policy of killing civilians in Israel because, in their view, there is a fundamental difference between what occurred in the US and the situation in Israel and the Occupied Territories:
As we reiterate our unfaltering condemnation of terrorism, we will
not tolerate branding our legitimate struggle against the occupation
of our land, as such. We therefore call upon the whole world to differentiate
between terrorism and the legitimate struggle against occupation sanctioned
by the tenets of religion and international conventions. The most common
justification advanced by Palestinian armed groups for the killings
described in this report is that there are no legal restrictions under
international law on the methods that may be used by a party engaged
in resistance to an occupying power. As Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, spiritual
leader of Hamas has said to Amnesty International, ''under all international
declarations and laws, Palestinians are entitled to defend and liberate
their land by all means and to redeem their integrity." (58) Other
armed groups have made similar statements. For example, the PFLP has
stated that under international law the Palestinian people are entitled
to ''engage in all types of struggle in order to rid itself of the occupation
and to attain its national independence." (59)
Contrary to these assertions, attacks on civilians are not permitted under any internationally recognized standard of law, whether they are committed in the context of a struggle against military occupation or any other context. Not only are they considered murder under general principles of law in every national legal system, they are contrary to fundamental principles of humanity which are reflected in international humanitarian law. In the manner in which they are being committed in Israel and the Occupied Territories, they also amount to crimes against humanity. Amnesty International condemns such killings unreservedly and calls on armed groups to end them immediately.
This section examines why the arguments advanced by Palestinian armed groups and their supporters to justify the deliberate killing of civilians find no basis in international law.
Attacks on Civilians as a Violation of Basic Principles of International Humanitarian Law
The assertion that international law imposes no constraints on the means used to fight occupying powers runs counter to one of the most basic rules of international humanitarian law. In the words of the ICRC, the most authoritative interpreter of international humanitarian law, ''whenever armed force is used the choice of means and methods is not unlimited." (60) International humanitarian law sets out standards of humane conduct applicable to both state forces and armed groups.
A fundamental principle of international humanitarian law is that parties involved in a conflict must at all times distinguish between civilians and combatants, and between civilian objects and military objectives. It is not permitted to target civilians, that is, people who are not members of the armed forces of either side. This principle, known as the principle of distinction, is codified in the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their two Additional Protocols of 1977. The principle of distinction is a fundamental rule of customary international humanitarian law, binding on all parties to armed conflicts, whether international or non-international. (61)
Amnesty International acknowledges that there is considerable debate as to whether the violence in Israel and the Occupied Territories has reached a scale and intensity whereby the rules of international humanitarian law on the conduct of hostilities in international armed conflicts apply, and if so to what extent. There is also a debate regarding the status that Palestinian armed groups and their fighters would have under international humanitarian law. (62)
However, regardless of the formal legal categorization of the situation in the Occupied Territories, Amnesty International believes that Palestinian armed groups remain bound by fundamental principles of humanity, which are reflected in the rules of international humanitarian law outlined below. In cases not expressly covered by the provisions of international humanitarian law treaties, both ''civilians and combatants remain under the protection and authority of the principles of international law derived from established custom, from the principles of humanity and from the dictates of the public conscience.'' (63)
As affirmed by the ICRC with respect to the situation in Israel and the Occupied Territories:
...Palestinian armed groups operating within or outside the occupied territories are also bound by the principles of international humanitarian law. Apart from the Fourth Geneva Convention, which relates to the protection of the civilian population, there are other universally accepted rules and principles of international humanitarian law that deal with the conduct of military operations. They stipulate in particular that only military objectives may be attacked. Thus, indiscriminate attacks, such as bomb attacks by Palestinian individuals or armed groups against Israeli civilians, and acts intended to spread terror among the civilian population are absolutely and unconditionally prohibited. (64)
The Protection of Civilians under International Humanitarian Law
Detailed provisions regarding the protection of the civilian population are contained in Protocol I Additional to the Geneva Conventions, relating to the protection of victims of international armed conflicts. Protocol I is particularly pertinent to the argument of Palestinian armed groups that international law permits parties who are struggling against an occupying force to use ''all means'', because it applies to international armed conflicts including ''armed conflicts in which people are fighting against colonial domination and alien occupation and against racist regimes in the exercise of their right of self-determination'' (Article 1 (4)). Indeed, the situation in Israeli and the Occupied Territories was very much in the mind of the drafters of this provision.
While neither Israel and the Palestinian Authority are parties to Additional Protocol 1, its provisions regarding the protection of the civilian population are regarded as norms of customary international law. (65) Protocol I confirms the rule that ''the civilian population and individual citizens shall enjoy protection against dangers from military operations'' (Article 51 (1)) and specifies rules to ensure such protection. The civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, must not be the object of attack. Acts or threats of violence whose primary purpose is to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited (Article 51 (2)).
The Preamble of the treaty reaffirms that its provisions ''must be fully applied in all circumstances to all persons who are protected by those instruments, without any adverse distinction based on the nature or origin of the armed conflict or on the causes espoused by or attributed to the Parties to the conflict.''
Palestinian armed groups have often claimed that they only target Israeli civilians because Israel has killed Palestinian civilians. (66) Such reprisal attacks against civilians are explicitly prohibited under international humanitarian law (see Article 51 (6) of Protocol I). Armed groups are not permitted to target civilians in response to violations of the rules committed by the enemy (Article 51(8)).
Palestinian armed groups have also suggested that they kill Israeli civilians because the groups are too militarily weak to defeat the Israeli armed forces and have no other effective means of fighting. (67) Neither Protocol I nor any other provision of international humanitarian law permit armed groups and individuals to strike at civilians on the grounds that the armed forces of the enemy are too powerful to defeat in combat.
Civilians and Combatants
Others have suggested that the prohibition of the killing of civilians does not apply to the situation in Israel and the Occupied Territories because, as Sheikh Ahmed Yassin has said, ''[a]re there any civilians in Israel? They are all soldiers, men and women, except those religious persons, who do not serve in the army, the rest are all soldiers. The only difference is that they wear civilian clothes when they are in Israel, and military clothes when they come to us."(68)
Such arguments are not only factually erroneous, they seek to blur the distinction between civilians and combatants by describing a whole society as ''militarized''. International humanitarian law defines a civilian as any person who is not a member of the armed forces of a party to the conflict (Article 50 (1) Protocol I). Members of the armed forces comprise all organized armed forces, groups and units which are under a command responsible to the party, including militia and volunteer corps forming part of such forces (Article 43, Protocol I).
Israelis between the ages of 17 and 56 can be mobilized to serve in the armed forces. Under international humanitarian law a person remains a civilian for as long as they are not incorporated into the armed forces. Reservists when not in active duty are not members of the armed forces and can therefore not be classified as combatants.
The fact that some people within the population are not civilians does not deprive the population of its civilian character and thus of its protection from direct attack (Article 50 (2) and (3) Protocol I). The occasional presence of soldiers among passengers on ordinary commuter buses, diners in a café or shoppers in a market does not make such venues legitimate targets for attack.
In addition to prohibiting direct attacks on civilians, international humanitarian law prohibits indiscriminate attacks, including attacks which strike military objectives and civilians without distinction, as well as attacks directed at a military objective but which cause disproportionate harm to civilians (Article 51 (4) and (5) of Protocol I). There are also obligations on both sides to take precautions to protect civilians by removing civilians from the vicinity of military objectives and avoiding locating military objectives near densely populated areas (Article 58 of Protocol I).
Palestinian armed groups and their supporters have suggested that the prohibition on attacking civilians does not apply to settlers in the Occupied Territories because the settlements are illegal under international humanitarian law; because settlements may have military functions; and because many settlers are armed.
Many settlements do indeed have military functions. Settlements account for one third of the total area of the Gaza Strip. Each of these settlements holds military bases and are heavily militarily defended. Although the militarization of settlements is strongest in Gaza, some of the settlements in the West Bank also have military functions. The I DF may use them as staging posts for their operations or to detain people in their custody. A large number of settlers are armed and settlers have sometimes attacked Palestinians and destroyed Palestinian houses and other property. However, settlers as such are civilians, unless they are serving in the Israeli armed forces.
Fatah considers attacks against settlers within the Occupied Territories to be legitimate. Fatah Secretary General Marwan Barghouti has stated to Amnesty International delegates that Fatah considers that no Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza are civilians because ''it is all an occupied country'' and Palestinians are fighting for their independence. He has also stated publicly that while he and the Fatah movement oppose attacking civilians inside Israel, ''our future neighbour, I reserve the right to protect myself and resist the Israeli occupation of my country and to fight for my freedom.'' (69)
Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories are unlawful under the provisions of international humanitarian law. The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the transfer of civilians from the occupying power's territory into the occupied territory (Article 49 (6)). However, the unlawful status of Israeli settlements does not affect the civilian status of settlers. Settlers, like any other civilians, cannot be targeted and only lose their protection from attack if and for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities (Article 51 (3) Protocol 1). (70) Similarly, Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza are civilians benefiting from the protection of the Fourth Geneva Convention unless and for such time as they take direct part in hostilities.
Attacks Against Civilians as Crimes under International Law
If the current situation is characterized as one to which the rules on the conduct of hostilities in international armed conflict apply, attacks on civilians would violate international humanitarian law and would constitute war crimes (see Article 85 (3) of Additional Protocol 1 and Article 8(2) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court).
The deliberate killing of Israeli civilians by Palestinian armed groups amounts to crimes against humanity. As defined in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, crimes against humanity are various acts committed as part of a ''widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population'', ''pursuant to or in furtherance of a State or organization's policy to commit such attack''. (71) The specified acts include murder, torture and ''other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.'' (72) Crimes against humanity do not require a link to an armed conflict - they can be committed either in peacetime or in wartime. The deliberate killings of Israeli civilians by Palestinian armed groups and individuals are both widespread and systematic, and are perpetrated as part of a publicly announced policy to target civilians. They therefore satisfy the definition of crimes against humanity included in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which is recognized as reflecting customary international law.
War crimes and crimes against humanity are among the most serious crimes under international law, and represent offences against humanity as a whole. Bringing the perpetrators of these crimes to justice is therefore the concern and the responsibility of the international community. This view is illustrated in the Preamble to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, adopted in July 1998, which affirms that the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole must not go unpunished and that their effective prosecution must be ensured by taking measures at the national level and by enhancing international cooperation.
The prime obligation to bring to justice the perpetrators of attacks on civilians falls to the Palestinian and Israeli authorities. This obligation is set out in international human rights and humanitarian law standards which both authorities have agreed to abide by, either through formal ratification or, as in the case of the Palestinian Authority, through statements of consent to be bound by relevant international treaties. (73) However, as documented in the previous chapter and in other Amnesty International reports, the measures taken by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority to investigate, prosecute and punish those believed to be responsible have not only been ineffective in curbing attacks on civilians, but have also resulted in a pattern of widespread human rights violations, including violations of the right to life, the right to a fair trial and the right not to be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
The international community cannot stand on the sidelines and allow this cycle of violence and human rights abuses to continue. Amnesty International is calling on the international community to assume its responsibility to ensure that international human rights and humanitarian law standards are upheld by all parties.
States and inter-governmental organizations should provide the necessary technical cooperation and assistance to the Palestinian Authority to enable it to conduct effective investigations and trials in strict accordance with international human rights standards. Amnesty International also reiterates its call, echoed in the resolutions and recommendations of various United Nations bodies, for international observers with a human rights monitoring component to ensure compliance by all parties with their international obligations. (74) Such observers should include police experts able to advise Palestinian security forces and to monitor their investigations, as well as judicial experts to advise on and monitor the conduct of judicial proceedings.
All States should prevent the transfer of any military assistance to Palestinian armed groups and Israeli armed forces which can reasonably be assumed to contribute to unlawful attacks on civilians.
Attacks on civilians are serious crimes under international law. All States therefore have a duty to exercise criminal jurisdiction over those responsible. To fulfil this responsibility, Amnesty International believes that states should enact universal jurisdiction provisions to ensure that their national courts are able to investigate and prosecute anyone suspected of committing these crimes, regardless of where they were committed or the nationality of the perpetrator or victim. Such crimes are not subject to any statute of limitations and perpetrators cannot escape conviction by claiming they were acting under orders.
The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court entered into force on 1 July 2002. The Court has jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression committed after that date. (75) The International Criminal Court is designed to be complementary to the national courts and will only investigate and prosecute individuals when the national courts are unable or unwilling to do so. States with universal jurisdiction legislation, however, may be able to bring to justice individuals accused of such crimes, no matter when and where they occurred, in their national courts.
Creating a Platform for Change
''We call upon the parties behind military operations targeting civilians in Israel to reconsider their policies and stop driving our young men to carry out these operations. Suicide bombings deepen the hatred and widen the gap between the Palestinian and Israeli people. Also, they destroy the possibilities of peaceful co-existence between them in two neighbouring countries.''
From ''Urgent Appeal to Stop Suicide Bombings,'' a petition signed by 58 Palestinian intellectuals and public figures, published in Al Quds, a Palestinian daily newspaper, 19 June 2002. Within a few days of its publication almost 1000 people are reported to have signed the petition. (76)
Palestinian armed groups and individuals have killed hundreds of civilians during the past two years. The bodies and minds of thousands more have been wounded in the attacks. But there are also some grounds for hope. The escalating violence has taken a heavy toll among ordinary Palestinians and Israelis and on both sides many believe there must be a better way. Following a recent visit to Israel and the Occupied Territories, Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan reported:
There are many Palestinians who are angry and want revenge. But there are also Palestinians, among the people I met in Gaza and Jerusalem, who condemn the killing of Israeli civilians. There are many Israelis who are afraid for their lives and see a military response as the only solution, but there are also those who think differently. One Israeli man, whose 16 year old daughter had been killed in a suicide bombing in 1997, said to me: ''I could have made my grief a tool for hatred, but I have decided to make it a platform for change. We must stop this endless cycle of violence''.
As illustrated by the ''Urgent Appeal to Stop Suicide Bombings'' at the beginning of this section, Palestinian and other voices can be heard condemning the killing of civilians. The speakers include political and religious leaders, intellectuals and human rights activists. Some of the speakers have been persistent critics; others are new. Amnesty International hopes that this report will assist their efforts.
Yet even as the report was being completed, new attacks on civilians were committed and the appalling toll of victims continued to rise. Hamas has condemned those who signed the petition. (77) Much remains to be done, in words and actions, to dissuade and prevent those involved from committing further attacks.
Amnesty International reiterates its appeal to the armed groups to respect the fundamental principles of humanity enshrined in international law and cease attacking civilians, immediately and unconditionally. We urge more Palestinians and others around the world to join in this appeal.
We urge the Palestinian Authority to strengthen the effectiveness of its criminal justice system within the framework of international human rights standards, and we call upon the international community to assist the Palestinian Authority to do so.
We urge Israel to heed its human rights and humanitarian law obligations in the measures it takes to prevent and respond to attacks.
Amnesty International's recommendations to the parties in Israel and the Occupied Territories and beyond are as follows.
Palestinian Armed Groups
Amnesty International calls on the leadership of all Palestinian armed groups to:
Amnesty International recommends that the Palestinian Authority should:
Amnesty International calls upon the Israeli government to:
Amnesty International calls upon other governments to:
(1) Palestine Information Centre Website, BBC, "Hamas military
wing claims responsibility for West Bank settlement attack", 28
April 2002; the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine reportedly
also claimed responsibility, "Adura attack kills four, wounds seven",
Ha'aretz 28 April 2002.
Sources: Amnesty International. Israel and the Occupied Territories and the Palestinian Authority: Without distinction - attacks on civilians by Palestinian armed groups. AI Index: MDE 02/003/2002. ©Amnesty International Publications, 1 Easton Street, London WC1X 0DW, United Kingdom. Reprinted with permission.