EXTERNAL AI Index: MDE 15/29/96
17 April 1996
Further information (1) on UA 100/96 (MDE 15/26/96, 12 April 1996) - Fear for
LEBANON/ISRAEL Civilians in parts of Lebanon and Israel
Israeli attacks on Lebanon have escalated sharply since the Urgent Action of
12 April 1996. Calls by Israel or the South Lebanese Army (SLA), a militia
allied to Israel, for the population to evacuate the area south of the Litani
River or risk injury or death, have forced around 400,000 people to leave their
homes in a 30-kilometre-wide strip of South Lebanon. By issuing the threat,
the Israeli authorities appear to be asserting a right to fire indiscriminately
at towns and villages in the area, showing little regard for the lives of
civilians who cannot leave the area. Attacks on houses in south Lebanese villages
have reportedly caused the deaths of up to 30 civilians and at least 166 injuries,
some of which are critical. At the same time, Hizbullah rocket attacks on
Northern Israel have continued, and up to 40 civilians have been reported
For the seventh consecutive day Israeli helicopters and warplanes attacked
the towns of Tyre and Sidon and a surrounding area covering at leat 90 villages
in South Lebanon. In addition the southern suburbs of Beirut were repeatedly
attacked and the Palestinian refugee camp of 'Ayn al-Hilweh was also hit. Israeli
army sources said the week-long bombardment of Southern Lebanon had so far
involved 1,000 aircraft sorties and 1,000 shells. Other reports suggested
that Hizbullah fired as many as 400 Katyusha rockets in 24 hours.
Since the escalation in fighting began on 11 April, only one Hizbullah member
has been killed and four wounded and no Israeli soldiers have been reported
killed, yet an attack by an Israeli helicopter on an ambulance at Hannieh in
southern Lebanon on 13 April killed two women and four children.
Statements by senior Israeli military and political authorities continue to
assert that they are taking care to avoid civilian casualties. But declarations
such as that made on 11 April by Major General Amiram Levine, in command of
Israeli forces in Lebanon, that "residents of South Lebanon who are under the
authority of Hizbullah will be hit harder" shows a disregard for civilian life.
The remark reportedly made by Prime Minister Shimon Peres that: "Unless the
Lebanese Government will be in a position to take charge of the situation...the
cost of the lack of order will be paid alas by the people of Lebanon" suggests
that the Israeli Government is acting deliberately to create a humanitarian
Amnesty International believes that the mounting toll of civilian casualties,
the clearly expressed intention to create what amounts to a "free fire zone"
in Southern Lebanon with no regard for the fact that many civilians remain
trapped within it, and attacks on what appear to be civilian targets in many
areas, all point to the indiscriminate nature of the Israeli attack.
The International Committee of the Red Cross on 14 April issued a statement
calling on parties to the conflict to cease attacks on civilians, or civilian
property, indiscriminate attacks, attacks on medical facilities, transport
or units, and acts or threats of violence whose primary purpose is to spread
terror throughout the civilian population.