Rights Group Accuses Hezbollah of 'Indiscriminate' Killing

By Kevin Sullivan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, September 15, 2006

LONDON, Sept. 14 -- Amnesty International on Thursday accused Hezbollah of "indiscriminate" and deliberate killings of Israeli civilians during the recent armed conflict in Lebanon, three weeks after accusing Israel of violating international law with "disproportionate" attacks on Lebanese civilians.

The London-based human rights group said its investigations showed that during the 33-day conflict, Hezbollah fired nearly 4,000 rockets into northern Israel, killing 43 civilians, seriously injuring 33 others and displacing hundreds of thousands. It said that about a quarter of the rockets were fired into urban areas and that many were packed with thousands of ball bearings "designed to inflict maximum death and injury."

"The scale of Hezbollah's attacks on Israeli cities, towns and villages, the indiscriminate nature of the weapons used, and statements from the leadership confirming their intent to target civilians, make it all too clear that Hezbollah violated the laws of war," Amnesty International's secretary general, Irene Khan, said in a statement. "The fact that Israel has also committed serious violations in no way justifies violations by Hezbollah. Civilians must not be made to pay the price for unlawful conduct on either side."

The fighting between Hezbollah and Israel began after the militia group crossed into Israel and seized two Israeli soldiers on July 12. The Israeli bombing raids and artillery strikes that followed killed as many as 1,200 people in Lebanon, most of them civilians, while Hezbollah's missile attacks and other operations killed 158 Israelis, most of whom were soldiers. The fighting, the most explosive in years in the Middle East, ended Aug. 14 with a U.N.-brokered cease-fire.

In an Aug. 23 report, Amnesty accused Israel of deliberately killing civilians and destroying Lebanese infrastructure as part of a deliberate military strategy that violated international law.

Israeli officials have repeatedly said that their actions were legal and that their bombing of targets in Lebanon was as precise as possible to minimize civilian casualties.

Israel has accused Hezbollah of intentionally establishing its military bases and conducting operations in areas with large civilian populations to use innocents as human shields to deter attacks. Amnesty said it would investigate those allegations in later reports.

Khan said evidence of violations of international law by both sides creates an "urgent need" for the United Nations to investigate.

"In the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel, the suffering of civilians on both sides has been repeatedly ignored with those responsible escaping all accountability," she said. "Justice is urgently needed if respect for the rules of war is ever to be taken seriously -- and that means accountability for the perpetrators of war crimes and reparations for the victims."

Amnesty said that in meetings with its investigators, Hezbollah officials argued that the militia's rocket attacks on Israel were in response to Israeli attacks on civilians in Lebanon.

"We do not deny that we have bombarded Israeli cities, settlements and infrastructure. But this was always a reaction," Hezbollah legislator Hassan Fadlallah told al-Jazeera television, according to the Associated Press. "It was a natural reaction. When a state is invaded, it must defend itself."

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