EXTERNAL AI Index: MDE 15/26/96
UA 100/96 Fear for safety 12 April 1996
LEBANON / ISRAEL Civilians in parts of Lebanon and Israel
Amnesty International fears that many more civilians may be killed in bomb
and rocket attacks as a result of escalating attacks by Israel on Lebanon and
by Hizbullah (party of God, an armed Islamist group based in Lebanon) on Israel.
At least eight civilians have already been killed and over 35 injured in an
exchange of attacks over the last four days.
On 12 April further Katyusha rockets were fired by Hizbullah at towns in Israel
with apparent disregard for the safety of civilians. On the morning of 12 April
Israel scattered leaflets and used a radio run by the South Lebanese Army,
a Christian militia allied to Israel, to warn civilians of 40 towns and villages
in south Lebanon to flee by 2.30pm Lebanese time. A mass exodus is taking place
from the threatened areas. It is unclear the extent to which the Israeli warning
seemed genuinely aimed at avoiding civilian casualties, or was rather intended
to terrorize the civilian population into fleeing.
Statements made by both Israeli and Hizbullah leaders increase the fear of
more civilian deaths. On 11 April, after an Israeli helicopter attack on several
targets (including an alleged helicopter base in south Beirut) which caused
at least four deaths, at least three of them civilians, Major General Amiram
Levine, in command of Israeli forces in Lebanon, is reported to have said that
"Residents in south Lebanon who are under the authority of Hizbullah will be
hit harder". General Amnon Shahak, Israeli Chief of General Staff said that:
"We will not hesitate to attack Hizbullah targets even if they are in the middle
of the civilian population, which we would like to spare". Shaykh Hassan
Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbullah, said, after the attack on Beirut: "Our
response to the bombing of Beirut will not be in the north of Palestine. It
will occur elsewhere, anywhere". Hizbullah attacks using Katyusha rockets on
towns in northern Israel have already wounded many civilians.
Hizbullah attacks on Israel, which occupies a strip about 15 kilometres wide
of south Lebanon as a "security zone", have increased over the past months.
In addition to attacks on Israeli soldiers in the zone they have also launched
attacks using Katyusha rockets into northern Israel, particularly against
Qiryat Shemona, an Israeli settlement near the Lebanese border. Israel has
replied by bombing alleged Hizbullah positions, usually in Lebanese villages.
During March, south Lebanese villages were frequently shelled by Israel, causing
the deaths of two civilians, apparently in reprisal for Hizbullah rocket raids
into northern Israel and attacks on Israeli forces which killed six soldiers.
The recent escalation followed the death of a 14-year-old Lebanese boy in Brashit
village as a result of a bomb explosion. Israel denied placing the bomb. The
following day Hizbullah fired rockets against Qiryat Shemona wounding 36 people.
The Israeli Government spokesman, Uri Dromi, said: It was a minimal possible
action yesterday [11 April], we went out of our way not to hit civilians. What
we have shown yesterday was only the tip of the iceberg of what we can do.
However, in these "targeted" attacks at least three civilians were killed.
The civilians reportedly included a 60-year-old man killed in Beirut and a
27-year-old woman killed in her car which had stopped at a sandwich stall north