Israel/Occupied Territories: Amnesty International condemns state assassinations

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The targeting of Palestinians suspected of attacking Israelis amounts to a
policy of state assassination, Amnesty International said today.

In a new report out today the organization is urging the Israeli authorities
to put an end to this liquidation policy and to investigate all unlawful
killings of Palestinians.

During a recent visit to the region Amnesty International delegates examined
several cases of individuals targeted for extrajudicial execution. They found
that some of those killed could have been arrested and, in a reckless and
disproportionate use of force, six Palestinian bystanders were also killed.

Taxi driver and alleged Hamas activist, Hani Abu Bakra, was gunned down on a
road in the Gaza Strip in December 2000 by five soldiers standing only two
metres away. Not only could the soldiers have arrested him, but they appeared
to have no qualms about aiming their fire at a minibus full of people. Hani
Abu Bakra was killed, another Palestinian wounded in the attack died later
and a third was permanently disabled.

The organization also investigated other killings through excessive, random
or negligent use of force by Israeli security forces, especially at
checkpoints or during shooting at residential areas.

Delegates found disturbing evidence that Israeli forces had used high
explosive air burst weapons like the M203 grenade launcher. When these
grenades are aimed to burst 15 metres or less above the ground they will
cause injuries or death to any people in the area. This appears to have
happened on more than one occasion.

Five youths were wounded and one, Hani al-Sufi, 15, was killed when they were
hit by shrapnel in a narrow alley between houses. Witnesses described the
typical loud explosion, downward air pressure, and temporary deafness caused
by these weapons. An examination of the shrapnel collected suggested that the
weapon had been an M203 grenade launcher.

Other killings investigated by delegates involved a woman shot in a car
passing a checkpoint and a child harvesting vegetables killed from about 800
metres away.

Amnesty International rejected the argument of the Israeli Defence Force and
government that the situation was one of armed conflict which allows the
government to liquidate those who may have targeted Israelis and to kill
without investigating each death.

"The acceptance by Israel of unlawful killings and the failure to investigate
each killing at the hands of the security services is leading to a culture of
impunity among Israeli soldiers and is fuelling a cycle of violence and
revenge in the region," Amnesty International said .

The report also condemns Palestinian armed groups which have targeted Israeli
civilians and shot at Israeli settlements, often from residential areas.

More than 350 Palestinians have been killed, including nearly 100 children,
by Israeli security services and more than 60 Israelis, including more than
30 civilians, have been killed by Palestinian armed groups.

"Israeli security forces and Palestinian armed groups are showing an
appalling disregard of the supreme human right - the right to life," Amnesty
International said.

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