Gaza: Fears for civilian population as new appeal issued

Amnesty International has issued an urgent appeal on behalf of civilians in Gaza amid continuing Fatah-Hamas violence that has already seen the deaths of scores of unarmed civilian bystanders, including several Children's rights.

Amnesty International believes that gunmen from both sides have shown utter disregard for fundamental human rights principles. The organisation cites an incident on 13 June when unidentified gunmen fired on unarmed demonstrators who were calling for an end to the armed clashes in both Gaza City and in Khan Younes, in the south of Gaza. Several protesters were injured.

Also on the same day two Palestinian employees of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the main relief agency in Gaza, were killed and two others were injured in Fatah-Hamas crossfire.

The organisation listed other serious human rights abuses or breaches of international humanitarian law:

  • Armed groups from both sides have carried out execution-style killings of captured rivals, and have abducted scores of members of rival groups and held them hostage.
  • Since 11 June gunmen have been mounting attacks in and around hospitals, directly targeting and launching attacks from hospital buildings. On 12 June Gaza City's Shifa Hospital, the main hospital in Gaza, was attacked with heavy weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades and home-made mortars, putting patients and staff in danger, impeding the work of the medical staff and hindering access to healthcare for those in need.
  • UN agencies have expressed concern that the fighting is hampering the UN's ability to deliver emergency services, notably food and healthcare, and that gunmen have fought inside two UNRWA facilities. Such actions constitute a gross violation of international law, which prohibits the targeting of civilians and indiscriminate attacks, and affords special protection to medical and humanitarian facilities, which must never be targeted or used for attacks or other activities which compromise their neutrality.
  • Educational institutions have also been damaged as a result of reckless gun battles and indiscriminate attacks, and violence has prevented many schoolChildren's rights from taking their final exams. All aspects of life in Gaza have been virtually paralyzed, with terrified residents trapped in their homes.
  • In a separate incident, gunmen from the armed wings of Fatah and Islamic Jihad used a "TV" sign to disguise an armoured vehicle which they used to carry out an attack on an Israeli army post on the dividing line between Gaza and Israel on 10 June. Such actions increase the risk that Israeli forces may attack journalists operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, mistaking them for gunmen in disguise.

Amnesty International’s ‘urgent action’ appeal calls on President Abbas and Prime Minister Haniyeh to take concrete steps to end the growing lawlessness and to prevent further killings of civilians - in particular urging them to assert control over the security forces and ensure that they uphold the law and respect human rights, including that they ensure that all killings, abductions and other attacks on civilians are investigated and that those responsible are brought to justice.

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