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Jerusalem shootings: Amnesty condems killings of civilians, urges Israeli restraint

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

“We absolutely condemn this deliberate attack on Israeli civilians as a gross abuse of international humanitarian law. We demand that all armed groups immediately cease the targeting of civilians.”

The eight students were killed in the library of the religious school in Jerusalem by a Palestinian from East Jerusalem, himself killed while carrying out the shootings. According to Hizbullah's al-Manar television station in Lebanon, the attack was carried out by a gunman belonging to a previously unknown group calling itself the "Phalange of Free Men of Galilee - Groups of the Martyr Imad Mughniya and the Gaza Martyrs”, but this has not been verified. To date, none of the Palestinian armed groups operating in the occupied Palestinian territories have claimed responsibility for the attack.

Amnesty International has called on the Israeli government to refrain from carrying out attacks that endanger Palestinian civilians in response to these killings of Israeli civilians in Jerusalem.

Malcolm Smart added:

"The lives of Palestinian civilians, who bear no responsibility for yesterday's attack in Jerusalem should not be put in jeopardy as a result, and the population of the occupied Palestinian territories should not be subjected to further collective punishment by Israeli forces.

"The Israeli authorities must adhere to international humanitarian law and human rights standards in any action they take in response to last night's attack, even though that attack demonstrated a disregard for the most fundamental principles of international humanitarian law.

"Abuses by one side, no matter how serious, can never justify abuses by the other side.”

Background information
Imad Mughniya, a Hizbullah commander allegedly involved in bombings of Israel's embassy and a Jewish cultural centre in Argentina, the hijacking of a TWA plane in 1985 and a number of kidnappings, was killed by a car bomb in Damascus on 12 February. His killers remain unknown. The Israeli government has denied any role in his death.

More than 100 Palestinians, at least half of them civilians taking no part in the fighting, have been killed in Gaza since 27 February 2008 as a result of Israeli military attacks. Palestinian armed groups, meanwhile, continue to fire rockets into southern Israel, deliberately endangering the lives of Israeli civilians in Sderot, Ashkelon and elsewhere.

In a statement on 2 March, Amnesty International said: "It is high time that the leaders of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority took effective steps to prevent and punish attacks on civilians in Israel, but their failure to do so does not make it legitimate for the Israeli authorities to launch reckless air and artillery strikes that wreak such death and destruction among Palestinian civilians.”

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