[Reuters - 17 May 2001]:
The head of the international Red Cross delegation to Israel
and the Palestinian territories said Thursday that Jewish
settlements in the occupied West Bank and Gaza were a war
crime under humanitarian law.
"The policy of settlement as such in humanitarian law is a war
crime," Rene Kosirnik of the International Committee of the Red
Cross (ICRC) told a news conference. Some 200,000 Jews live
in 145 settlements scattered among the three million
Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, lands captured
by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.
Kosirnik called the news conference to discuss the Geneva
Conventions as they applied to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
eight months into a bloody Palestinian uprising against Israeli
rule. He said the law of occupation applied also in Arab East
Jerusalem, which Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967
conflict and annexed in a move not recognized internationally.
"The transfer, the installation of population of the occupying
power into the occupied territories is considered as an illegal
move and qualified as a 'grave breach.' It's a grave breach,
formally speaking, but grave breaches are equal in principle to
war crimes," Kosirnik said.
An international inquiry led by former U.S. Senator George
Mitchell last week recommended a freeze on settlement
expansion. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has agreed not to build
new settlements, but wants to expand existing ones based on
what he calls "natural growth" - a policy rejected by