• Campaigns

Israel/Lebanon: Civilian killings/Fear for safety

, Index number: MDE 15/044/1999

At least 10 people, including civilians, have been killed, and dozens wounded, across Lebanon and northern Israel over the last 24 hours as hostilities have escalated between Israel and armed groups opposed to the Israeli occupation of a "security zone" in south Lebanon. Eight of those killed in Israeli air raids were Lebanese, including civil defence workers and civilians. Two Israeli civilians died in Hizbullah shelling of the town of Qiryat Shemona in northen Israel. Amnesty International is concerned the this escalation may continue and result in more civilian casualties.

PUBLIC AI Index: MDE 15/44/99
UA 148/99 Civilian killings/Fear for Safety 25 June 1999
ISRAEL/LEBANONKilling and wounding of civilians in Lebanon and Israel
At least 10 people, including civilians, have been killed, and dozens wounded,
across Lebanon and northern Israel over the last 24 hours as hostilities have
escalated between Israel and armed groups opposed to the Israeli occupation
of a "security zone" in south Lebanon. Eight of those killed in Israeli air
raids were Lebanese, including civil defence workers and civilians. Two Israeli
civilians died in Hizbullah shelling of the town of Qiryat Shemona in northen
Israel. Amnesty International is concerned the this escalation may continue
and result in more civilian casualties.
These attacks appear to constitute a serious violation of international
humanitarian law governing armed conflict, which prohibits attacks on civilians
and non-military targets. Among the targets of Israeli air raids were a power
station and a telecommunications relay station south of the Lebanese capital,
Beirut. Hizbullah (Party of God) fired Katyusha rockets in indiscriminate
shelling of residential areas in northern Israel. General Dan Halutz of Israeli
military intelligence told a news conference that “The response, unlike our
responses of the last three years, was a response against infrastructure targets
and directed against all elements of force acting in Lebanon, and not just
against Hizbullah, out of a clear intention to deliver a message that there
are no elements immune from an Israeli army response if the wild attacks of
the Hizbullah go on.” Meanwhile Hassan Nasrallah, Secretary General of Hizbullah
has stated that “The use of air raids to strike civilian infrastructure and
sow terror will not protect the settlements in northern Palestine [Israel].”
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
Israel occupies a strip of South Lebanon, which it calls its “security zone”,
policed by its proxy militia, the South Lebanon Army (SLA). After a similar
escalation of attacks by both sides in April 1996, Israel launched operation
“Grapes of Wrath”, during which more than 150 Lebanese civilians were killed
as a result of deliberate or indiscriminate attacks. The operation was ended
by an “understandingwhich prohibited attacks on civilians, signed in April
1996. Israel and Hizbullah (the main militia engaged in fighting Israel and
the SLA) committed themselves “to ensuring that under no circumstances will
civilians be the target of attack”. Israel agreed that its forces “will not
fire any kind of weapon at civilians or civilian targets in Lebanon”, and
Hizbullah agreed “not [to] carry out attacks by Katyusha rockets or by any
kind of weapon into Israel”. A group was set up with the task of “monitoring
the application of the understanding”, with members from France, Israel,
Lebanon, Syria and the United States.
International law prohibits attacks against civilians. Article 48 of Additional
Protocol 1 to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 sets out the “Basic Rule” regarding
the protection of civilian lives, in particular the principle of “distinction
between the civilian population and combatants. This states that: “In order
to ensure respect for and protection of the civilian population and civilian
objects, the Parties to the conflict shall at all times distinguish between
the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military
objectives and accordingly shall direct their operations only against military
objectives.”
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Article 51(6) of Protocol 1 states unequivocally that: “Attacks against the
civilian population or civilians by way of reprisals are prohibited”.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/faxes/express/airmail letters in
English or your own language:
To the Israeli Government:
- urging the Israeli Government to ensure that, in accordance with international
law governing armed conflict, it takes all necessary steps to ensure the safety
of civilians, by observing the principle of “distinction” at all times,
including by refraining from direct attacks on civilians and from indiscriminate
attacks on military targets;
- reminding the Israeli Government that under international law attacks against
the civilian population are never justified, even in response to attacks against
civilians in Israel.
To the SLA:
- urging the SLA to ensure that, in accordance with international law governing
armed conflict, it takes all necessary steps to ensure the safety of civilians,
by observing the principle of “distinction” at all times, including by
refraining from direct attacks on civilians and from indiscriminate attacks
on military targets;
- reminding the SLA that under international law attacks against the civilian
population are never justified, even in response to attacks against civilians
in Israel.
To Hizbullah:
- urging Hizbullah to ensure that, in accordance with international law
governing armed conflict, it takes all necessary steps to ensure the safety
of civilians, by observing the principle of “distinction” at all times,
including by refraining from direct attacks on civilians and from indiscriminate
attacks on military targets;
- reminding Hizbullah that under international law attacks against the civilian
population are never justified, even in response to attacks against civilians
in Lebanon.
APPEALS TO:
To Israel:
Benyamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister
Office of the Prime Minister
3 Kaplan Street
Hakirya, Jerusalem 91007, Israel
Telegrams: Prime Minister, Jerusalem, Israel
Faxes: + 972 3 691 7915
Salutation: Dear Prime Minister
To the SLA
General Antoine Lahad
South Lebanon Army
Marjayun
South Lebanon
Via Israel
Telegrams: General Lahad, SLA, Marajun, Via Israel
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Salutation: Dear General
To Hizbullah:
Shaykh Hasan Nasrallah
PO Box 266-25
Beirut,
Lebanon
Telegrams: Shaykh Nasrallah, Beirut, Lebanon
Salutation: Dear Shaykh Nasrallah
COPIES TO: diplomatic representatives of Israel/Lebanon accredited to your
country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
or your section office, if sending appeals after 6 August 1999.

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