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Amnesty report: Israeli military committed war crimes

Group lists evidence of violations in Jenin, Nablus

Israeli tanks in Jenin in April
Israeli tanks in Jenin in April

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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- In a report that Israel called one-sided and the Palestinians lauded as "very important," Amnesty International said Monday there is "clear evidence" of war crimes committed by the Israeli military in two West Bank cities during its offensive last spring.

The report compiled evidence of "unlawful killings, torture and ill-treatment of prisoners; wanton destruction of hundreds of homes, sometimes with the residents still inside; the blocking of ambulances and denial of humanitarian assistance and the use of Palestinian civilians as human shields."

The report is titled "Israel and the Occupied Territories: Shielded from Scrutiny -- IDF violations in Jenin and Nablus."

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat called the document "a very important report" and said he hoped world diplomats will consider the military "escalation against our people, against our cities, against our towns, against our refugee camps.

"Who can accept this all over the world?"

Daniel Taoub, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, said the report describes Israel's offensive in a vacuum.

"We went in because over the past two years, 650 Israelis have been murdered deliberately by terrorists, and the Palestinian Authority stood aside and did absolutely nothing," he said.

"The report ignores this. One gets the impression that if Amnesty International was writing a history of the World War II, they would start with allied bombing of Dresden.

"There really are dilemmas here for any democracy that is trying to fight terrorists that hole themselves up in schools and in ambulances with no respect for civilian life, and the report completely ignores these dilemmas," Taoub said.

Israel launched its offensive against what it called the Palestinian "terror infrastructure" after a series of suicide bombings that targeted Israeli civilians.

Amnesty, which in a July report called those Palestinian suicide bombings "crimes against humanity," said that though Israel "has the right to take measures to prevent unlawful violence," it must not violate international law.

"Up to now, the Israel authorities have failed in their responsibility to bring to justice the perpetrators of serious human rights violations. War crimes are among the most serious crimes under international law and represent offenses against humanity as a whole," the report stated.

Amnesty said it met in May with the Israel Defense Forces to discuss the military's actions. It submitted "most of the individual cases" in the report to the IDF for reaction. The group said it has not received a response from the IDF, despite "promises to answer on the case."

The IDF said it will examine the allegations and "react accordingly" to the claims when a full report is handed over.

The report said the IDF "blocked access for days to ambulances, humanitarian aid and the outside world while the dead and wounded lay in streets or houses. In Jenin, a whole residential quarter of the refugee camp was demolished, leaving 4,000 people homeless."

The IDF said it operated with "utmost" care, well-aware that militants were operating from the "center of populated areas."

On Friday, Human Rights Watch released a 170-page report saying those who have planned and carried out suicide bombings that deliberately targeted civilians were guilty of crimes against humanity and must be brought to justice. (Full story)

The report also said the Palestinian Authority and Arafat have failed to do all they can to stop suicide attacks or bring to justice those who plan and carry them out. It criticized the authority and Arafat for contributing to "an atmosphere of impunity" for such crimes.

Human Rights Watch also published a 48-page report in May on the Israeli military operation in Jenin, criticizing Israeli forces for using Palestinian civilians as "human shields" through a sweep of the refugee camp.

At least 50 Palestinians were killed in the Jenin camp fighting, along with 23 Israeli soldiers. Human Rights Watch said 21 of the Palestinians killed were civilians and said it found no evidence to support Palestinian claims that Israeli troops carried out a massacre in the camp.

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