Thu, Aug 24, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Israel might be guilty of war crimes, Amnesty says

AGENCIES , LONDON AND JERUSALEM

Human rights group Amnesty International yesterday accused Israel of deliberately targeting civilians during its campaign against Hezbollah in Lebanon and said it may be guilty of war crimes.

Not only were food shops purposely destroyed by shelling and air attacks, Amnesty said, but aid convoys were deliberately blocked and hospitals and public utilities like water and power plants put out of action to force people to flee.

"The evidence strongly suggests that the extensive destruction of public works, power systems, civilian homes and industry was deliberate and an integral part of the military strategy rather than collateral damage," Amnesty said.

Israel says it did not target civilians and that had warned non-combatants to leave south Lebanon.

Amnesty called for the UN to quickly set up an independent inquiry into breaches of international humanitarian law it says were committed by both sides.

"Israel may also have violated other prohibitions, including that on direct attacks against civilian objects. These violations are war crimes," Amnesty added.

In a report, "Israel/Lebanon: Deliberate destruction or `collateral damage,'" Amnesty said that between July 12 and Aug. 14, when a ceasefire took effect, Israel carried out more than 7,000 air attacks.

At the same time, the Israeli Navy mounted a further 2,500 bombardments, and long-range artillery fired an untold number of shells into southern Lebanon.

The attacks killed more than 1,100 people -- of whom one-third were children -- with more than 4,000 injuries and 970,000 people, or one-fourth of the population, forced to flee north.

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