Attacks on Civilians by Palestinian Armed Groups
Amnesty International Report
(July 11, 2002)
Highlighted from the following report:
"...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
27 May 2002: Sinai Keinan, aged 18 months, and her grandmother
Ruth Peled, 56, were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up
at the entrance to the Bravissimo café in Petah Tikva, Israel.
Fifty other people were injured, many of them children. The Al-Aqsa
Martyrs Brigade claimed responsibility.
27 April 2002: three armed men attacked residents of Adora,
an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. In the bedroom of one house
a gunman killed five-year old Danielle Shefi as she hid under a bed
and wounded her mother Shiri, her brothers Uriel, aged four and Eliad,
aged two. Elsewhere in the settlement, they also killed three adults.
Izz-al-Din al-Qassam Brigades (the military wing of Hamas) claimed
responsibility for what it described as an ''heroic and daring operation.''(1)
29 March 2002: Tuvya Viesner, 79, from Tel Aviv and Michael
Orlanski, 70, from Petah Tikva were stabbed to death while visiting
relatives at the Israeli settlement of Netzarim in Gaza. Al-Quds Brigades,
the military wing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, claimed responsibility
for what they described as an ''heroic and courageous assault.''
27 March 2002: Twenty nine people - 27 of them civilians -
were killed and 140 injured when an attacker exploded a bomb attached
to himself in the dining room of a hotel in Netanya during a meal
to celebrate the Jewish festival of Passover. Nineteen of the dead
were aged over 70. The oldest, Chanah Rogan, was 90. Izz-al-Din al-Qassam
Brigades claimed responsibility.
27 January 2002: Pinhas Tokatli, aged 81, was killed and more
than one hundred people were injured when Wafa Idris exploded a bomb
attached to herself in Jaffa Street, Jerusalem, an area of shops and
restaurants. Wafa Idris was the first female Palestinian ''suicide
bomber''. Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility.
4 November 2001: Menashe Regev, 14 and Shoshana Ben-Yishai,
16, were killed by a gunman who shot at an Israeli bus in Jerusalem.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility.
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
Attacks against civilians - on the basis of international humanitarian
law, in this report, the term is used to describe:
attacks in which the direct object of the attack is the civilian
population generally or individual civilians;
indiscriminate attacks - these include attacks that fail to distinguish
between civilians/civilian objects and military objectives; and attacks
which though directed at a military target cause disproportionate
harm to civilians or civilian objects. Military objectives are combatants
(members of the armed forces of a party to a conflict) as well as
objects which by their nature, location, purpose or use make an effective
contribution to military action and whose total or partial destruction,
capture or neutralization, in the circumstances ruling at the time,
offers a definite military advantage.
''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
''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:
Suheil Adawi, 32, a Palestinian citizen of Israel. He was one of
15 people killed in a suicide bombing in the Matza restaurant in Haifa
on 31 March 2002. Suheil Adawi worked as a waiter in the restaurant.
The restaurant was run by members of his family, five of whom were
wounded in the attack;
Shahada Dadis, 30, a Palestinian resident of Beit Hanina in East
Jerusalem. He was shot dead on 16 January 2002 while driving a rented
commercial vehicle with Israeli license plates in the West Bank. Shahada
Dadis was a salesman for a pharmaceutical company and was travelling
to Jenin for his company;
Father Georgios Tsibouktzakis, a Greek Orthodox monk from the St
George Monastery near Wadi Qalt in the West Bank. He was shot dead
from a passing car while driving on the Jerusalem-Jericho road on
12 June 2001. His car had Israeli license plates.
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
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
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
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 gunman who shot dead three yeshiva (religious school) students
- Netanel Riachi, 17, Gilad Siglitz, 14, and Avraham Siton, 18 - at
Itamar settlement on the West Bank, on 28 May 2002;
the suicide bomber who killed Ruth Peled and her 18 month old grand-daughter
Sinai Keinan in Petah Tikvah on 27 May 2002; the suicide bomber who
detonated his bomb next to a group of women and their children waiting
near a synagogue where their husbands/fathers were, in central Jerusalem
on 2 March 2002.
Ten people were killed, among them seven month-old Ya'acov Avraham
and his mother Tzofia Yaarit; 18-month old Oriah Lian and her twelve
year old brother, Lidor; Liran Nehmad, aged 3, her sister Shiraz aged
seven and her parents Shlomo and Gafnit Nehmad; and Shaul Nehmad aged
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
Hamas runs extensive educational, welfare and religious activities
in the Occupied
Territories and has engaged in peaceful political activity. It enjoys
significant popular support. The military wing of Hamas is called the
Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades.
Hamas claimed responsibility for the first suicide bomb attack on civilians
which killed five people on a bus in the Hadera bus station in 1994.
It claimed responsibility for 23 attacks on civilians between 29 September
2000 and 31 May 2002.
a suicide bomber who attacked people in the Matza restaurant in
Haifa on 31 March 2002 - 15 civilians were killed;
the gunman who killed Yael Ohana, aged 11 and her mother Miri Ohana,
50, in their house in Moshav Hamra, an Israeli settlement on the West
Bank, on 6 February 2002;
the suicide bomber who attacked people waiting to enter the ''Dolphinarium''
night club in Tel Aviv on 1 June 2001 20 of the 21 victims
were civilians and 10 were aged under 18: Maria Tagilchev, 14; Yael-Yulia
Sklianek, Yevgeni Dorfman, Raisa Nimrovsky and Katherine astaniyada-Talkir,
all aged 15; and Yulia Nelimov, Liana Sakiyan, Irina Nepomneschi and
Anya Kazachkov, who were aged 16; and Marina Berkovizki aged 17.
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
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
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:
the suicide bomber who detonated a device on a bus in Afula central
bus station on 5 March 2002, killing 85-year-old Maharatu Tanaga;
the gunman who fired at a commuter bus in Jerusalem on 4 November
2001, killing 16 year-old Shoshana Ben-Yishai and 14-year-old Menashe
the suicide bomber who attacked people in the Sbarro restaurant
in West Jerusalem on 9 August 2001, killing 16 civilians including
two year old Hemda Schijveschuurder and Avraham Schijveschuurder,
aged four, and six other children aged between eight and 16. Hamas
also claimed this attack.
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
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:
a suicide bombing in a pizzeria in Karnei Shomron, Israel on 16
February 2002, killing three civilians - Keren Shatzki, 14; Rachel
Theler 16; and Nehemia Amar;
a suicide bombing in a Netanya market on 19 May 2002 that killed
three civilians - Yosef Haviv, 70, Victor Tatrinov, 63 and Arkady
Vieselman, 40. This attack was also claimed by Hamas. (33)
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.''
Material Support for
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
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.''
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
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.
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
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:
assassinated Palestinians alleged to be responsible for attacks
on Israeli civilians and soldiers, in non-combat situations when the
people could have been arrested - such killings constitute extra-judicial
executions and violate the right to life;
detained thousands of people without charge or trial - this practice
violates the prohibition against arbitrary detention - and subjected
many of them to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, for example
in March and April 2002, detainees were tightly handcuffed, not permitted
to go to the toilet and deprived of food and blankets for extended
demolished homes lived in by people who are believed to have committed
attacks - many other people lived in these homes and the measure therefore
violates the prohibition against collective punishment.
''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
--T, a victim of a suicide bombing of a billiard club in Rishon Lezion,
near Tel Aviv, on 7 May 2002 in which 16 people were killed. Interview
with Amnesty International.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
''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
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
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
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
Amnesty International recommends that the Palestinian Authority should:
call upon Palestinian armed groups and individuals to cease attacking
Israeli civilians in the Occupied Territories as well as within Israel;
ensure its criminal justice agencies work effectively and diligently
to prevent attacks;
ensure that all attacks against civilians are promptly and thoroughly
investigated and that those who order, organize or assist such attacks
are brought to justice;
ensure that all measures taken against people suspected of involvement
in attacks comply in every respect with international human rights
standards, specifically that No one is held in prolonged detention
without charge or trial, that trials are fair and that torture, ill-treatment
or the death penalty are not used;
initiate a public campaign, including through the media, aimed at
promoting opposition to attacks against civilians with Palestinian
Amnesty International calls upon the Israeli government to:
ensure that all its actions against armed groups and individuals
suspected of involvement in attacks against civilians comply with
international human rights and humanitarian law standards;
bring to justice all those involved in attacks on civilians, in
fair trials and without torture or ill-treatment.
Amnesty International calls upon other governments to:
unequivocally condemn all attacks against civilians and, where they
have links with Palestinian armed groups, urge the groups to cease
prevent any military assistance to armed groups that contributes
to attacks on civilians;
assist the Palestinian Authority to improve the effectiveness of
its criminal justice system and its compliance with international
human rights standards, in particular by offering international experts
to advise on and monitor investigations into attacks against civilians
and legal proceedings against alleged perpetrators;
bring to justice anyone suspected of involvement in attacks against
civilians who may be found in their jurisdiction and cooperate with
the Palestinian Authority and Israel in their efforts to bring to
justice the perpetrators.
(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.
(2) The sources of information in this report include Amnesty International
interviews with victims and their families, and with leaders and members
of armed groups; Israeli authorities; public statements by armed groups;
non-governmental organizations such as B'Tselem - The Israeli Information
Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories (www.btselem.org);
and the media.
(3) See, for example, "Sri Lanka: Amnesty International condemns
Vavuniya bombing", AI Index: ASA 37/003/2000; "Colombia -
Return to Hope", AI Index:AMR 23/23/00; "Sierra Leone: Amnesty
International condemns continuing RUF attacks on civilians", AI
Index: AFR 51/037/2000; "Spain: ETA's new killing campaign must
end", AI Index: EUR 41/007/2000; "Uganda: Breaking God's Commands
- the destruction of childhood by the Lord's Resistance Army",
AI Index: AFR 59/001/1997.
(4) See, for example, UN Security Council Resolution 242 (1967) of 22
November 1967; UN Security Council Resolution 465 (1980) of 1 March
(5) See, for example, United Nations General Assembly Resolution 44/29
of 4 December 1989 - the Preamble states that it reaffirms "the
inalienable right to self-determination and independence of all people
under colonial and racist regimes and other forms of alien domination
and foreign occupation, and [upholds] the legitimacy of their struggle,
in particular the struggle of national liberation movements...";
United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2675 [XXV] (1970) and Resolution
3314 [XXIX] (1974).
(6) See, for example, Broken lives - a year of intifada, AI Index: MDE
15/083/2001; Racism and the administration of justice, AI Index: ACT
40/020/2001; "Excessive use of lethal force", AI Index: MDE
15/41/00; "Demolition and dispossession: the destruction of Palestinian
homes", AI Index: MDE 15/59/99.
(7) According to an unnamed Hamas member, "most" Gazans object
to suicide bombings but do not say so openly because they would be perceived
as blaming Palestinian armed groups for the policies of the Israeli
government - Amira Hass, "Hamas activist: most Gazans now object
to suicide bombings", Ha'aretz, 20 May 2002 this article
also reports on a conference at Bir Zeit University on the West Bank
in May 2002 where Palestinian speakers spoke for and against suicide
attacks. Human rights activist Bassam Eid says that "the majority
of the Palestinian public does not condone acts of terrorism, such as
suicide bombings [but] in the broader context of the Israeli occupation,
they are unable to condemn these acts unequivocally." - "Intifada
Loses its Way", 20 January 2002, www.phrmg.org (retrieved 5 June
(8) Hanan Ashrawi, "Challenging Questions", 11 December, 2001
- http://www.miftah.org (retrieved 10 June 2002).
(9) International Committee of the Red Cross, People on war - Country
report: Israel, the occupied territories and the autonomous territories,
1999, Geneva, v.
(10) ''"Terrorism and human rights - progress report prepared by
Ms Kalliopi K. Koufa, Special Rapporteur", Commission on Human
Rights, Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights,
Fifty-Third Session, E/CN.4/Sub./2001/31, 27 June 2001.
(11) The estimate and information about the attacks was obtained from
various sources including Israeli authorities, groups that claimed responsibility
for attacks, interviews with victims or their families, non-governmental
organizations and the media. It is not possible to establish the exact
number of people killed in the context of the conflict because in many
cases no-one was caught or claimed responsibility. Cases have been attributed
to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict where the circumstances strongly
indicate this e.g. shooting at occupants of cars with Israeli license
plates in the Occupied Territories.
(13) Usama Al-Najjar, described as the official spokesman of Al-Aqsa
Martyrs Brigade, interviewed in Al-Intiqad (Lebanon) 17 August 2001,
cited in The Middle East Media Research Institute, "Statements
by Heads of Fateh Factions", Special Dispatch Series Number 260,
22 August 2002.
(14) .See for example, President Arafat and Palestinian cabinet minister
Ziad Abu Zayyad - Ross Dunn, "Arafat in threat to sack PLO officers",
The Age, 22 September 2002; on 16 December 2001; President Arafat reportedly
called for "a comprehensive cessation to all the armed activities"
including "mortar attacks against settlements" - "Arafat
orders an end to violence against Israel", haaretzdaily.com.
(15) BBC "Palestinian leadership urges militants against attacking
inside Israel", 21 May 2002.
(16) Al-Hayat, 24 May 2002.
(17) "The Intifada of Independence", www.fateh.net (retrieved
20 May 2002).
(19) Israeli government Ministry of Foreign Affairs, "The involvement
of Arafat, PA Senior Officials and Apparatuses in Terrorism against
Israel, Corruption and Crime", www.israel-mfa.gov.il/mfa/go.asp
(retrieved 3 May 2002).
(20) AFP, "Arafat says he's ready to accept Israeli Jewish state",
13 May 2002.
(23) For example, see the views of two reported Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade
leaders interviewed in March 2002 - Ibrahim Abaya stated that the Al-Aqsa
Brigades would follow any decision by President Arafat to "suspend
all operations and have a cease fire"; Jihad Ja'ari stated that
the Brigades abide by all President Arafat's decisions "except
if the Israelis break the cease-fire. For example, by attempting to
assassinate one of the leaders of the Brigade of the Aqsa Martyrs or
our political leadership or the bombardment of the positions of Palestinian
civilians, there will be appropriate response to that by the Brigade
without having to check with the President" - interviews broadcast
in US by PBS television on Frontline #2015, "Battle for the Holy
Land" on 14 April 2002. Different views are also reported in Council
on Foreign Relations, "Terrorism: Questions and Answers - Al-Aqsa
Martyrs Brigade", www.terrorismanswers.com/groups.alaqsa (retrieved
3 June 2002); Al-Aqsa spokesman Usama Al-Najjar states that members
"are warriors who are not subjected to any political decision and
have no relation with the first rank of the PA. Although some of its
members work in sensitive positions in the PA's civil ministries or
its security apparatuses" - Al-Intiqad (Lebanon) reported in The
Middle East Media Research Institute, "Statements by Heads of Fateh
Factions", Special Dispatch Series - No. 260, 22 August 2001.
(24) "The Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement", 18
August 1988, www.yale/edu/lawweb/avalon/mideast/hamas (retrieved 1 May
(25) Geert Linnebank and Barry Moody, "Hamas leader rejects Palestinian
elections", Reuters, 23 May 2002. Hamas spokesperson Ismail Abu
Shanab also stated in April 2002 that Hamas would "cease all military
activities" if Israel agreed to the Saudi plan - Robert Plotkin,
"Hamas would accept Saudi peace plan, spokesman says group would
stop attacks on Israelis if occupation ends", San Francisco Chronicle,
28 April 2002.
(26) Interview with the Palestinian Media Centre, reported by al-Sharq
al-Awsat, 28 May 2002; the text of the cease-fire "understanding"
between Israel and Hizbullah can be seen on the website of the Israeli
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, www.israel-mfa.gov.il.
(27) "Nidal al-Mughrabi, "Palestinian militants say suicide
attacks to go on", Reuters, 13 May 2002.
(28) For example, statements by Sheikh Hasan Yusul and Musa Abu Marzaq
reported in Al-Zaman, London, 29 May 2002, reported by BBC.
(29) "AFP, "Authority doesn't speak for Palestinians on bombings:
Hamas", 8 May 2002.
(30) '' Nidal al-Mughrabi, "Palestinian militants say suicide attacks
to go on", Reuters, 13 May 2002.
(31) '' "An interview with the New Leader of the Popular Front
for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) Ali Mustafa", 15 May 2000,
www.pflp-pal.org/opinion/interviews/general (retrieved 3 May 2002).
(32) PFLP Communiqué, 23 October 2001.
(33) Hamas also claimed the bombing in Netanya
(34) Statement issued 3 June 2002.
(35) AFP, "PFLP vows to continue fight against Israel after Sharm
el-Sheikh summit", 13 May 2002. (36) Ibrahim Humaydi, "Palestinian
organizations' leaders split over martyrdom operations", Al-Hayat,
21 May 2002, reported by BBC, "London-based paper reports splits
at meeting of Palestinian 'opposition groups'", 21 May 2002.
(37) Luft Gail, "Palestinian military performance and the 2000
Intifida", Meta Journal, December 2000 describes additional weapons
such as anti-tank missiles which are generally used against military
(38) .Suzanne Goldenberg, "Guns for sale - how stolen Israeli weapons
arm Fatah's fighters", The Guardian, 16 December 2000; Derek Miller,
"Small arms and light weapons in the Middle East", Background
Paper, Small arms survey, Geneva, 2001; Robert Fisk, "In on the
tide, the guns and rockets that fuel this fight", The Independent,
29 April 2002.
(39) For example, see Suzanne Goldenberg, "Guns for sale - how
stolen Israeli weapons arm Fatah's fighters", The Guardian, 16
(40) On Hizbullah see for example, Christopher Hack, "Hezbollah
plays for high stakes", news.bb.co.uk/hi/English/world/middle_east.../1909296
(retrieved 9 May 2002) who reports that Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan
Nasrallah has "admitted trying to smuggle weapons to the Palestinians
via Jordan." On the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General
Command see AFP, "PLP-GC says assassinated official sought to arm
Palestinians", 22 May 2002.
(41) Rodan and Sullivan, "PA smuggles arms via Sinai tunnels",
Jerusalem Post, 6 June 1998.
(42) For example, see "Jordan stops weapons headed to Palestinians,"
AP, 6 May 2002; Saad Hattar, "Court convicts 4 men for criminal
possession of arms", Jordan Times 30 April 2002; AFP, "Four
Palestinians allegedly planning attacks on Israel jailed in Amman",
29 April 2002.
(43) Israeli government Ministry of Foreign Affairs, "The Involvement
of Arafat, PA Senior Officials and Apparatuses in Terrorism against
Israel, Corruption and Crime", www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/go.
(44) AFP, "Iraq hails Palestinian suicide bombers, vows support
for intifada", 21 May 2002
(45) Reported in "How Iran entered the 'Axis," broadcast in
"Frontline" television program, www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/tehran
(retrieved 7 May 2002).
(46) BBC News, "Arafat takes blame for arms shipment", 14
(47) "The Involvement of Arafat, PA Senior Officials and Apparatuses
in Terrorism against Israel, Corruption and Crime", www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/go.
Chapter V paragraphs 26-29.
(48)"Finance Minister speaks out on aid to Palestinians",
(49) Interview with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal,
Scott Macleod, "No apologies from this Saudi", Time, 12 May
(50) Palestine Liberation Organization, "The Palestinian Uprising
Against Occupation", www.nad-plo.org/fact_sheets_faq/faq1 (retrieved
28 April 2002).
(51) See, for example, PFLP press releases of 17 December 2001 and 21
(52) Amnesty International, "Defying the Rule of Law: Political
detainees held without charge or trial", AI Index: MDE 21/03/99.
(53) For example, see Amnesty International reports:"Trial at midnight:
secret, summary, unfair trials in Gaza", AI Index: MDE 15/15/95;
"Defying the Rule of Law: Political detainees held without charge
or trial", AI Index: MDE 21/03/99 and Broken lives a year
of intifada, AI Index: MDE 15/083/2001; ADDAMEER Prisoner Support and
Human Rights Association, "PA State Security Court Decision is
Illegal and Unjust", www.addameer.org/press/02april27; ADDAMEER
Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, "The state of human
rights in the areas of the Palestinian Authority",1999, www.addameer.org/press/02april27.
(54) In its annual review "Patterns of Global Terrorism 2001",
the U.S. State Department observes that "Israel's destruction of
the PA's security infrastructure contributed to the ineffectiveness
of the PA."
(55) AFP, "UN could take over Palestinian police role: Roed-Larsen",
15 May 2002.
(56) See, for example, "The heavy price of Israeli incursions",
AI Index: MDE 15/042/2002; "Mass detention in cruel, inhuman and
degrading conditions", AI Index:MDE 15/074/2002; "State Assassinations
and Other Unlawful Killings", AI Index: MDE 15/005/2001.
(57) "A Statement Issued by the Palestinian National and Islamic
Forces", 14 September 2001, www.pflp-pal.org.press/140901. The
armed groups included the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine,
the Islamic Resistance Movement - Hamas and the Islamic Jihad Movement.
Among the other organizations were the General Union of Palestinian
Women and the Palestinian Network for Non Governmental Organizations.
(58) 'Letter sent by Sheikh Yassin to Amnesty International members
in response to their letters protesting the targeting of civilians,
25 June 2001.
(59) Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine press release, 3
(60) 'Statement by the International Committee of the Red Cross, Geneva,
5 December 2001. This basic rule is explictly reflected in a number
of international humanitarian law treaties, including Article 22 of
the Regulations annexed to Hague Convention IV Respecting the Laws and
Customs of War on Land (1907) and Article 35 (1) of Protocol I to the
Geneva Conventions (1977).
(61) Case concerning Military and Paramilitary Activities in and against
Nicaragua (Nicaragua v United States of America), Merits, Judgment of
27 June 1986, ICJ Rep.
(62) For an illustration of the range of opinions, see "Israel
and the Palestinians: What Laws Were Broken?" Report of the Crimes
of War Project expert analysis on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (http://www.crimesofwar.org/expert/me-intro.html).
For a discussion of some of the difficulties of defining "armed
conflict", see the International Committee of the Red Cross Commentary
on the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, (Geneva, ICRC, 1952) and
the decision of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
(appeals Chamber) in Prosecutor v. Dusko Tadic: Decision of 2 October
1995 on the defence motion for interlocutory appeal on jurisdiction,
(63) This is known as the Martens clause - named after its drafter Fydor
Fydorovich Martens - which was adopted as part of the Preamble of the
Hague Convention II Respecting the Laws and Customs of War in 1899 and
appears in numerous international humanitarian law treaties since then.
The version quoted is from Article 1(2) of the 1977 Protocol Additional
to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and Relating to the Protection
of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I).
(64) Statement by the International Committee of the Red Cross, Geneva,
5 December 2001.
(65) Customary international law comprises international rules derived
from state practice where there exists a conviction in the international
community that such practice is required as a matter of law. The chief
sources of international law include international treaties, customary
law and general principles of law (Article 38 of the Statute of the
International Court of Justice).
(66) For example, see Nidal al-Mughrabi, "Palestinian militants
say suicide attacks to go on", Reuters,13 May 2002, reports Hamas
official 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Rantisi stating that "As long as Jews
continue to slaughter Palestinians we will hit Haifa, Tel Aviv and Afula."
(67) For example, see interview with Jihad Ja'ari, Al Aqsa Brigades
leader: "In the beginning the National Liberation Movement (Fatah)
did not use the martyrdom/ishtishaadeyye (suicide bomber) operations.
But in our study of the enormous oppressive Israeli military might used
against the Palestinian people and the Palestinian children, we had
no choice but to take measure and appropriately respond to the large
military operations. When the F-16 Air Force bombers bombard our areas
and our people and families, what do the Israelis expect from us? That
we answer them back with crude machine guns? Our view was that the appropriate
response to such bombardment is to inflict heavy casualties on the Israeli
street so that we can almost match what they inflict on us..."
E Broadcast by PBS television on Frontline #2015, "Battle for the
Holy Land" on 14 April 2002.
(68) Reported in Al-Hayat, 22 May 2002.
(69) Marwan Barghouti, "Want Security? End the Occupation",
Washington Post, 16 January 2002.
(70) The ICRC Commentary to Article 51 (3) of Protocol I defines hostile
acts as "acts which by their nature and purpose are intended to
cause actual harm to the personnel and equipment of the armed forces".
The word "hostilities" covers "not only the time that
the civilian actually makes use of a weapon, but also, for example,
the time that he is carrying it, as well as situations in which he undertakes
hostile acts without using a weapon."
(71) Article 7 (1) and (2)(a) of the 1998 Rome Statute of the International
(72) Article 7 (1) of the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal
(73) Israel is not yet among the state parties to the Rome Statute,
and, until it is a state, the Palestinian Authority may not ratify the
treaty. However the Rome Statute, which was adopted by an inter-governmental
conference on 17 July 1998 represents the most current comprehensive
definition of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Palestine
Liberation Organization indicated its willingness to commit itself to
international humanitarian law standards in 1979 and in 1982 declared
that it would apply the four Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol
I. In June 1989, the PLO informed the Swiss government that its Executive
Committee, acting as Government of the State of Palestine, had decided
to adhere to the four Geneva Conventions and the two Additional Protocols.
The Swiss Government circulated this communication to the state parties
for information only, explaining that it was not in a position to decide
whether the communication could be considered an instrument of accession
"due to the uncertainty within the international community as to
the existence or non-existence of the State of Palestine". It confirmed,
however, the validity of the PLO unilateral declaration of June 1982,
which remains a significant expression of commitment to abide by the
rules and principles of international humanitarian law. Soon after signing
the first Oslo Agreement in 1993, President Yasser Arafat stated to
Amnesty International delegates that he would abide by international
human rights treaties.
(74) Amnesty International's proposal for international monitors is
described in, for example, "Statement to the UN Security Council
on the protection of human rights and international humanitarian law
in Israel and the Occupied Territories", AI Index: MDE 01/003/2002,
18 April 2002.
(75) In the absence of a UN Security Council referral, the Court will
not be able to prosecute nationals of a country which has not ratified
the Rome Statute or if the crime was committed in a country that has
not ratified it unless either such country makes a declaration accepting
the jurisdiction of the court.
(76) AFP, "Almost 1000 Palestinians say no to suicide bombings",
22 June 2002.
(77) Al-Hayat - 20 June 2002.
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.