July 11, 2002
JERUSALEM — Amnesty International condemned Palestinian suicide bombings
and other attacks on Israeli civilians Thursday as “crimes against humanity” and
unjustified by Palestinian political grievances.
The London-based human rights organization had previously accused Israel of
violating Palestinian rights in the Mideast conflict, but the lengthy report
focused on the Palestinian violence that amnesty said had killed about 350
“The attacks against civilians by Palestinian armed groups are widespread,
systematic and in pursuit of an explicit policy to attack civilians,” the Amnesty
report said. “They constitute crimes against humanity … They may also
constitute war crimes.”
Palestinian officials dismissed the report as biased and unbalanced. Palestinian
Cabinet secretary Ahmed Abdul Rahman said the Palestinian leadership and
prominent Palestinian moderates had condemned suicide bombings. But he
added, “all that is happening to Israeli citizens is a normal consequence for their
occupation and rejection of Palestinian rights.”
Ismail Abu Shanab, spokesman for the militant Islamic group Hamas, which has
carried out the largest number of suicide bombings, dismissed the report as
“It reflects the same American policy that gave the legitimacy to the
(Israeli) occupation of West Bank cities and to the daily actions committed by
the Israeli army against the Palestinians,” he said.
Hamas says it will continue to carry out bombings despite the calls to
stop by the Palestinian Authority.
Some Palestinian extremists argue that since most Israelis, both men and
women, serve in the military, virtually all Israelis are legitimate targets for
attack. Also, many Palestinians claim that Israeli settlers, including women and
children, are valid targets because they live in the overwhelmingly Palestinian
areas of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Many bomb attacks have also hit
buses or cafes where a small number of uniformed soldiers may be present
among a larger group of civilians.
Amnesty said such attacks were unjustified.
“The occasional presence of soldiers among passengers on ordinary
commuter buses … in a cafe or shoppers in a market does not make such
venues legitimate targets for attacks,” the Amnesty report added.
The Amnesty report said “no violations by the Israeli government, no matter
their scale or gravity, justify the killing of … civilians.”
Opinion polls have consistently shown that suicide bombings have strong
support among the Palestinian population. One recent poll showed 68 percent
of Palestinians approved of the attacks, down from about 74 percent at the end
of last year. In Palestinian public rallies, suicide bombers are glorified as
martyrs, with posters of the bombers plastered on walls throughout Palestinian
cities and towns.
The Amnesty report noted that some Palestinians believe targeting civilians is
wrong, though their voices are not as loud as those who favor the attacks.
Amnesty International called on the Palestinian Authority to ensure that those
who order, organize or assist such attacks are brought to justice.
Hundreds of civilians have been killed on both sides of the conflict, though
Israel argues that its security forces do not intentionally target civilians, while
Palestinian bombers attempt to maximize civilian deaths. According to the
Amnesty report, about 350 Israeli civilians have been killed in 130 attacks by
Palestinian militias since the beginning of the fighting in September 2000.