AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL CALLS ON UK TO PREVENT EQUIPPING OF ISRAELI ATTACK HELICOPTERS

Israeli forces have used US-supplied helicopter gunships to violate the human rights of Palestinians in punitive attacks – on civilians, including Children's rights - where there was no imminent danger to life.

The UK government issued export licences for 'components for combat helicopters' and related technology to Israel in 1999. It is unclear what these 'components' are, as the UK government's Annual Report on Strategic Export Controls does not give sufficient details. US Apache attack helicopters can also be built under licence in the UK.

Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, said:

'The UK government must respond to wide public concern at the use of attack helicopters by the Israeli security forces to commit human rights violations during the present intifada.

'The only safe course for our government is to suspend immediately licences for export of any equipment from this country used to keep Israeli attack helicopters in the air.'

On 12 October 2000, Israel Air Force (IAF) helicopter gunships fired anti-tank missiles on Palestinian facilities, including a radio station, in Ramallah/al-Bireh and other towns in the West Bank and Gaza city and Beit Lahiya in the Gaza Strip. Thirty people were reportedly injured in these attacks.

Later the same day, IAF helicopter gunships attacked a Palestinian facility in Jericho in the West Bank. According to the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), this came in response to an arson attack on a synagogue located on the edge of Jericho. The IDF also stated that IAF attack helicopters opened fire in the Nablus area, Salfit, Hara al-Shaykh and Abu Sneineh. There are also reports that helicopter gunships opened fire in Jenin.

According to international human rights standards, lethal force can only be used if there is imminent danger to life and if force cannot be avoided to protect life.

The IDF has made clear that the missiles fired by attack helicopters on 12 October were not used to protect lives. According to the IDF, the attacks were in response to the killing of two Israeli soldiers by Palestinians earlier on 12 October at a police station in Ramallah/al-Bireh.

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