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Amnesty accuses Israel of war crimes

Article from Reuters

Retrieved from on August 23, 2006

HUMAN rights group Amnesty International has accused Israel of deliberately targeting civilians during its campaign against Hezbollah in Lebanon and that the country 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 had warned non-combatants to leave south Lebanon. It also accused Hezbollah of launching rockets from civilian areas.

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

"In the context of the attacks on Lebanon's infrastructure, Israel has specifically violated the prohibition on indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks," it said.

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

In its report, Amnesty said that between July 12 and August 14, when a fragile UN-brokered ceasefire came into force, Israel carried out more than 7000 air attacks against 7000 targets.

At the same time the Israeli Navy mounted a further 2500 bombardments while long-range artillery fired an untold number of shells into southern Lebanon.

The attacks killed more than 1100 people - of whom one-third were children - with more than 4000 injuries and 970,000 people or one quarter of the population forced to flee north.

"Many of the violations examined in this report are war crimes that give rise to individual criminal responsibility," Amnesty said.

It said the Lebanese government estimated 31 key facilities from airports to power plants and water and sewage treatment plants had been completely or partially destroyed, as had 80 bridges and 94 roads.

More than 25 fuel stations and 900 other businesses had been hit, with more than 30,000 homes, offices and shops razed to the ground.

"Israeli government spokespeople have insisted that they were targeting Hezbollah positions and support facilities, and that damage to civilian infrastructure was incidental or resulted from Hezbollah using the civilian population as a human shield," Amnesty said.

"However, the pattern and scope of the attacks, as well as the number of civilian casualties and the amount of damage sustained, makes the justification ring hollow," it said.

Total estimated damage is put at $4.6 billion - $2.63 billion for buildings and $1.97 billion for infrastructure.