ISRAEL / OT: NOW IS THE TIME TO SEND INTERNATIONAL OBSERVERS

In recognition of the call by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to deploy a imonitoring force as well as other recent comments on the issue made by Colin Powell and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, Amnesty International said:

'There is plenty of talk around the issue of deploying monitors, but details are still sketchy. We firmly believe that any monitoring force deployed to the region must be international and must have a strong human rights mandate.'

In view of the continuing violations of human rights and humanitarian law, Amnesty International hopes that Colin Powell's visit to the region will encourage the parties concerned to agree without further delay to an international human rights monitoring presence in the region to help prevent further serious and widespread abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law.

Today in Jenin, the Israeli Defence Force is continuing operations largely in secret, with media, emergency medical services, the International Committee of the Red Cross and UN agencies denied access to the refugee camp. Since Jenin refugee camp is still barred to the outside world, reports that 35-40% of Palestinian homes have been demolished can not be confirmed. As one resident said to Amnesty International: 'The camp smells of death. Bodies are buried under the rubble of houses; others were crushed by tanks and others still lie in the streets.'

According to reports received by the organisation, Israeli troops are shooting at ambulances with people in them and tanks crushing empty ambulances, disrupting urgent medical services.

'Human rights observers may be a means to save the lives of both Palestinians and Israelis,' added the organisation.

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