In recognition of recent comments made by both US Secretary of State Colin Powell and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair which stressed the need to commit peace monitors to the region, Amnesty International said:

'As a first sign of concrete commitment to put an end to these horrific human rights abuses in Israel and the Occupied Territories, international observers with a strong and transparent human rights mandate must be immediately deployed in the region.'

Condemning this morning's attack on a civilian bus in Haifa, Amnesty International said that the feeling of despair on the part of the Palestinian population at the appalling abuses they are suffering must not lead to further victimisation of civilians.

'The Palestinian Authority must do all it can to condemn and prevent attacks on Israeli civilians,' the organisation said whilst reiterating that even the gravest human rights abuses do not justify the deliberate retaliation targeting of civilians.

According to reports received by Amnesty International, since the suicide bombing this morning every town in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has been blocked off. Even Qalqiliya and Tulkarem, from where the Israeli Defence Forces were supposed to have withdrawn, are surrounded by tanks and effectively cut off from the outside world.

Reports suggest that 200 people may have been killed in Jenin. Wanton destruction of houses is continuing and ambulances are still not allowed to move freely in Jenin, Nablus and most areas of the West Bank.

'The international community cannot turn its back on the suffering of thousands of men, Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and Children's rights both on the Palestinian and the Israeli side,' the organisation said. 'Human rights observers may be a means to save the lives of both Palestinians and Israelis.'

Amnesty International hopes that Colin Powell's visit to the region is a sign that the USA will bring effective pressure on both parties to end the current crisis and will now redouble its efforts to achieve a just and lasting peace.

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