Analysis: 'War crimes' on West Bank

  • From: "Muslim-News" <editor_@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 19 Apr 2002 12:42:22 +0100

 Red Cross workers relates destruction of Jenin over mobile phone
The Red Cross is searching for bodies in Jenin

Palestinians and Arab politicians are already accusing the Israeli army
of war crimes in the Jenin refugee camp and elsewhere in the West Bank. 

They are comparing what has happened in Israel's current campaign to the
massacres at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon in 1982, in
which at least 800 Palestinians died. 

But the Israelis see their operation as a battle against Palestinian
terrorists responsible for suicide bombings against Israeli civilians. 

 Israeli soldier encounters the smell of death
The smell of death pervades the Jenin refugee camp

The full picture of what went on in Jenin is not yet clear, and the
Israelis may not allow a proper investigation by outsiders. 

But international officials say some actions by their troops, there and
elsewhere, would appear to have breached the Fourth Geneva Convention
relating to the protection of civilians in war or under occupation. 

The convention forbids violence being used against civilians, as well as
inhumane or degrading treatment. Some Palestinians say they were used as
human shields by Israeli soldiers. 

It is claimed that civilians died in Jenin when their houses were
demolished. The convention prohibits the destruction of property except
where military operations make it absolutely necessary. 

There is obviously dispute about what was necessary. The Israelis say
many buildings in Jenin were booby-trapped and it was often impossible
to distinguish between Palestinian fighters and civilians. 

Sealed off 

But the Geneva Convention also requires that the wounded are collected
and cared for - and that medical supplies and other aid are given free

There are many reports of Israeli soldiers stopping ambulances so that
wounded people bled to death on the streets. 

More generally, Palestinian areas were sealed off for days on end and
Israeli tanks cut water and electricity supplies. 

 Bomb attack in Jerusalem
Suicide bomb attacks are against international law

The Red Cross says the basic principle governing military operations is
that the weapons and methods used should not be disproportionate to the

That is spelt out in a 1977 Protocol to which Israel is not a party, but
the Red Cross says the principle still applies under customary
international law. 

The Red Cross makes the same point about suicide bombings carried out by
Palestinians - such attacks on civilians are prohibited under all
humanitarian law, whether codified and ratified or not. 

The Palestinian Authority is not a state and is not a formal party to
the Geneva Conventions but has said in the past that it intends to abide
by them. 

Justice elusive 

The question of whether crimes committed by Israelis or Palestinians
will ever be brought to court is another matter. 

Israel as the occupying power does arrest, try and imprison
Palestinians, but they regard such justice as a fraud. 

As for trying Israelis for alleged war crimes, that is hardly a
practical possibility. 

In theory, the new International Criminal Court might act, but only for
crimes committed after 1 July when it becomes a legal reality.

Source: BBC online


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