Israel/Occupied Territories: Call for Gaza killings investigation as Amnesty visits scene in Beit Hanoun

** Amnesty researcher in Gaza available for interview **

The killing this morning of 18 civilians in the Palestinian town of Beit Hanoun, victims of Israeli shelling, was an appalling act, Amnesty International said today. The organisation has called for an immediate, independent investigation and for those responsible to be held accountable. It also said previous Israeli investigations, such as that carried out into the killings of a Palestinian family on a beach in the Gaza Strip last June, had been seriously inadequate and failed to meet international standards for such investigations, which must be independent, impartial and thorough.

Those killed, most of whom were asleep in their beds when their homes were struck by shells fired by Israeli forces, included eight Children's rights. An Amnesty International delegate who visited the scene of the killings shortly after the attack was told that 15 of the victims were killed in the first strike and that three others were killed by a second shell as they raced to help the dead and injured.

Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Programme Director Malcolm Smart said:

“This terrible act follows a renewed upsurge in killings of Palestinians since Israeli forces launched their latest military operation into the Gaza Strip on 2 November. Israeli actions during this entire operation have been marked by nothing less than reckless disregard for the lives of Palestinian civilians, over 20 of whom had been killed even before this morning’s tragedy.”

In all, before today’s deaths, more than 53 Palestinians were killed during the Israeli military siege of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, and many more were wounded. Two ambulance workers were among the civilians killed. Dubbed “Autumn clouds” by the Israeli army, the operation began on 2 November and continued until 7 November when Israeli forces redeployed outside the town. Israeli authorities said they mounted the operation in an attempt to prevent Palestinian armed groups firing home-made Qassem rockets at Israeli towns and villages near to the Gaza Strip. Most of the dead were killed in Beit Hanoun, which was kept under siege throughout the six days, but others were killed as a result of Israeli military strikes in the surrounding area.

Amnesty International condemns all attacks on unarmed civilians and is calling on the Israeli authorities to establish independent investigations into every incident in which Palestinian civilians were killed or injured by Israeli forces, and to bring to justice those responsible for human rights violations.

View latest press releases