Israel/Gaza: International Monitors and Arms Embargo Needed NOW

A doctor checks vital signs of haneen Tafish by light of his mobile phone in Al Shifa hospital, Gaza City, November 15, 2012. Haneen Tafish eventually died from her injuries. (Photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Amnesty International is calling for the  prompt deployment of international monitors and an arms embargo on both Israel and armed Palestinian groups, including Hamas de facto administration in Gaza, to offer more civilian protections immediately and monitor and document violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.

Since the assassination by Israel of Hamas leader Ahmad al-Ja’abari on November 14 in Gaza City, there has been an escalation of violence between Israel and armed Palestinian groups in Gaza that has left scores dead and injured.  The conflict shows no signs of abating and looks to be repeating the same mistakes made during operation ‘Cast Lead’ four years ago.

Every precaution must be taken to decrease harm to civilians

Israeli civilians in southern city of Kiryat Malachi in Israel take cover during a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip November 15, 2012. (Photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Just in the first six days of conflict, dozens of civilians have been killed and hundreds injured in Gaza.  Three civilians have been killed and scores injured in southern Israel.  With the situation escalating, civilians continue to be under threat on both sides.

Every precaution must be taken immediately to protect civilians. Both sides, Israel and the armed Palestinian groups, appear to be violating international humanitarian law and appear to be taking no measure to change their tactics.

Both sides, Israel and the armed Palestinian groups, appear to be violating international humanitarian law with no signs of changing military tactics

The United Nations, human rights organizations on the ground and Amnesty International have information pointing  to violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by both Israel and armed Palestinian groups in Gaza. And both sides continue to justify their military tactics although endangering civilians.

Israeli military forces have fired artillery into densely populated residential areas, attacked government and media buildings, and bombed the family homes of members of Palestinian armed groups, killing and wounding Palestinian civilians. Israel says they are not targeting the civilians, but ‘terrorists’.

Armed Palestinian groups, including Hamas, have fired thousands of indiscriminate rockets into Israel towards population centers damaging property, but also causing serious injury to civilians and even death. Hamas officials say Israeli forces kill their civilians so they are just doing the same and they’re fighting for their freedom.

But, violations by one side do NOT justify violations by the other side and no matter how ‘righteous’ or legitimate reasons are believed to be, parties must still adhere to the simple rules of distinguishing between combatant and non-combatant and avoiding civilian harm as much as possible.

All sides must stop carrying out indiscriminate attacks, or attacks in densely-populated residential areas that will inevitably harm civilians.

Accountability

When the dust has settled and a truce established, there must be accountability for the suspected violations of international humanitarian and human rights law that have taken place and mechanisms – such as independent monitors – need to be put in place now to prepare for that day.

Until all sides step back

Until all sides take appropriate measures to decrease harm to civilians – international monitors with the ability to investigate human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law need to be on the ground as soon as possible to carry out independent, impartial assessments of violations by both sides, to both prevent violations from occurring and to aid in the search for justice and accountability later.

And pending an international embargo, all states – including the United States – must immediately suspend transfers of weapons, munitions and related equipment to Israel and armed Palestinian groups, including Hamas. [Read background in the AI report, ‘Fuelling Conflict: Foreign Arms Supplies to Israel/Gaza’ published February 2009 following operation ‘Cast Lead’.]

The lessons from operation ‘Cast Lead’ have not been learnt. The victims of that violence, both Israelis and Palestinians, are still waiting for justice, and now their nightmare has returned.

Keep up with the latest on our concerns, follow @IOTPA, @SunjeevBery, @AmnestyUSAMENA or @Amnesty on Twitter.

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